September 5 – September 18, 2019 Writing Prompt “One Week to Live”

Theme: You have 1 week to live, and you can do anything you want before the end…Anything!

Story Requirements:

None

Word Count: 1,200



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252 thoughts on “September 5 – September 18, 2019 Writing Prompt “One Week to Live”

  • September 5, 2019 at 2:12 pm
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.
    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    Reply
  • September 5, 2019 at 2:38 pm
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    Posting for comments. I will have a story this week, I promise. I am feeling better as each day progresses and actually sat down and wrote a story just to see if I could do it. I’m ready. I have to say the subject matter is near and dear to my heart, having had that very subject matter on my mind a lot recently. You think a lot of crazy things when your doctors tell you they aren’t sure you’re going to make it and that you are a very sick puppy.

    Reply
    • September 5, 2019 at 3:27 pm
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      I am so glad you are feeling better!

      I’ve been in that situation and it is scary. I woke up well one morning and by the end of the day, heard the doctor say that I had only 15 minutes to live before they raced me into emergency surgery and had to give me 11 pints of blood. Afterward, my regular doctor talked about how scared he was for me. That was 1987 and I am grateful for every day I’ve had since then.

      I’m sending hugs and prayers for you! Adi

      Reply
      • September 6, 2019 at 5:35 am
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        Just fifteen minutes? Wow, surviving that must have been a life-changing experience. Something like that does add appreciation to every day that follows…

        Reply
      • September 7, 2019 at 3:11 pm
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        Good luck for your health. Keep the spirit up.
        Happy to see your story on here. Will read it later.
        Take care

        Reply
      • September 10, 2019 at 4:14 pm
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        Thanks Adi. We’ve been through a lot, you and I. Makes us stronger, I guess.

        Reply
    • September 5, 2019 at 4:19 pm
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      Prayers for your health Roy. Strength and healing.

      Reply
      • September 10, 2019 at 4:15 pm
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        I’m healing, I’m healing. And getting stronger every day. Too strong. My wife is putting me back to work. Speaking of that, I have to make dinner tonight. Better get going soon.

        Reply
    • September 5, 2019 at 8:18 pm
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      Take care Roy, and I can’t wait to see you back in the fold.

      Love ya!

      Reply
    • September 6, 2019 at 5:31 am
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      Good to hear you’re getting better, Roy. Stay on that curve and don’t look back. Getting back to writing will certainly help too. It’s oxygen for some of us.

      Reply
      • September 10, 2019 at 4:18 pm
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        It’s oxygen for me. Writing started for me following a near fatal incident about nine years ago. I survived that, and now this. I’m a lucky guy.

        Reply
        • September 11, 2019 at 8:34 am
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          Oxygen! This is something you ought to write an autobiographical account of – how writing in some ways saved you and stays by your side in the ups and downs of life.

          It would be a great addition, with a new slant to it, to the many excellent books about the craft of writing that are already out there. Also to counter those who say books/reading are dead in this day and age of flicking images and restless pixels…

          I’m very pleased to hear that you are better and on the way to being your full self again! Bon courage!

          Reply
          • September 11, 2019 at 8:59 am
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            What a nice idea. Thanks Ken. I’ll consider it, but I now have so much on my plate, I hardly know where to start. If I may, I’d like tell you that you are a very welcome addition to this ragtag gang of writers from both sides of the pond. It’s a good feeling knowing I can write again. How good remains to be seen.

    • September 8, 2019 at 3:39 am
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      I haven’t been on here in a while, but I’m so sorry to hear that, my condolences. I’m sure your story will rock the world though.

      Reply
      • September 10, 2019 at 4:18 pm
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        Let’s hope Peter, let’s hope it rocks the world. I’ll let you be the judge. thanks for your comments.

        Reply
  • September 5, 2019 at 3:09 pm
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    I’m posting for comments. I totally missed the last assignment because I didn’t get any of the comments or posts and if I’m not reminded, I get busy and forget. UGH. Here’s hoping for the best this go around! Adi

    Reply
  • September 5, 2019 at 8:29 pm
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    Oh what a fun prompt!!!! Thanks for the votes last week! I was legit floored to take the win. It was incredibly gratifying! I can’t wait to tackle this next task and read some stories!! Good luck to everyone!

    Reply
    • September 6, 2019 at 5:23 am
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      Congratulations Kristin – well-deserved! I saw a winner-in-the-making in “The Breakup”, I liked that story very much, as I commented right upon reading it. You see, Ryan didn’t keep showing up for nothing, after all 🙂

      Well done also to the other medalists and the rest of the writers who provided us with such varied memorable stories on the better left unsaid theme. I’m flattered that my prompt inspired so many of you! I got the idea from a faded sticker advertising some small-time pub play that had long been held, on a lamp-post while walking down the street in Dublin. Carrie had asked me for a prompt, and I had to find something!

      It was a slow start, and I was afraid the prompt may flop, but then I think it may have even ended up breaking the record in terms of number of participants, at least since I’ve been here. Thank you all, and congrats again, Kristin!

      Now, off to work on something for the new prompt… Do we really have the usual two weeks to finish this prompt’s story? It says ONE WEEK in the title! 🙂

      Reply
      • September 6, 2019 at 10:24 am
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        Top O The Morning to ya Ken!!
        The win truly was a confidence boost I needed honestly!
        Last week you had asked me a few questions and I wanted to answer them but was waiting for our new prompt.
        My truck has not been recovered, I have video footage of it being stolen and it was creepy to watch. They cased my house for about 10 minutes and then broke the window on the truck and left. They returned about 5 minutes later to see if anyone had heard the commotion and had my truck out of the driveway in less than 2 minutes. The cops, however could care less about my video footage. It is annoying, but I am hoping to use the experience to boost this weeks story ( fingers crossed).
        My store, well my store until Halloween, I have been here for 5 years. I sell top end fitness equipment, but alas my location is closing and it is time to move onto the next chapter of my career. It does make for great writing material, I have my little notebook and I create character outlines based on the people I meet.
        I thought your prompt was great, it really generated a bunch of unique tales and that is an accomplishment all on its own. Good luck this week!

        Reply
        • September 9, 2019 at 6:00 am
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          Hi Kristin,

          That’s a nasty experience, really, you’ve been through… not just for the truck itself – that may be covered by insurance and, in any case, material things come and go – but for the actual invasion of privacy, the creepy factor and all that. This was an organized thing, not just some kids nicking a truck for a joyride. Being a truck, they might carry out some haul with it elsewhere (that’s the main reason vehicles are stolen these days, at least where I live, not so much for their own sake). But there you’re covered, the cops know! It’s interesting how they showed little to no interest in the video footage. Police procedure is funny sometimes, or it’s just a case of laziness…

          Indeed, such experiences do serve as fodder for our stories. At least! For a writer (and maybe in life in general too), I say that no experience is really ever a bad experience. For the simple reason that it is an experience – there is always something to learn from it. Or, even better, something to write about. So hopefully, you’ll get some good stuff out of your trauma – the way the thiefs work, their timings, your exact feelings about it, police procedure (or lack of it) and all that. And you said that you’ve already got a boost for this week’s story, so there you are 🙂

          Your notebook with the character traits of the people you meet is a great idea. I have since forever been jotting down daily notes, but only on ideas that spring to my mind for stories and other crazy stuff.

          Only recently did I realize how useful it is to also note down observations from real life. Something someone said. The way someone looked. The way different people reacted to the same thing. The sort of things that seem almost banal and irrelevant, but which reveal so much about people.

          It all started after I attended a course about Facial Micro-Expressions. I liked it so much I went for it twice! Such a universe, there, in all those nearly imperceptible micro-movements in the human face that expose the full truth – even the subconscious stuff!

          I realized I have to start noticing such things for my story writing. And other seemingly insignificant things too, like hand gestures, posture, the art of the nod, the different ways people handle language, how people get slighted, how they lie, pretend they’re pleased when they’re not, struggle to express “coolness” and so on. But it’s difficult to meet in person all those different types of people we need for our stories as we often live in our own small bubble…(while our stories live far beyond our personal realities – perhaps that’s one reason why we write them, after all!).

          Well, you have a huge advantage, there, with the store! Even though the clientele may be from a certain social-band (given the fact you sell high-end fitness equipment). General groceries might attract a more varied crowd. But still, you get to see more people daily than most of the rest of us, I suppose. Btw, what are you looking into now that you have to close this chapter in your life, come Halloween?

          Groceries? You don’t say! 🙂

          Ken (M.)

          Reply
  • September 5, 2019 at 8:41 pm
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    Diamonds To Die For:
    Written by Writer2019

    Word count- 1088(excluding title and this)

    I watched, eyes narrowed, as the cameras, only a couple feet ahead of me, slowly dropped down, the blinking red lights disappearing. “Awesome,” I muttered, allowing myself to feel a burst of satisfaction. “We good?” A voice asked quietly, their breath making my ear itch. “Yes, we’re good,” I whispered back, trying to keep my voice down. My partner, Dan, nodded briefly, before starting to crawl silently away. But then he hesitated, looking back at me. “Peter, if I may ask, why are we doing this? Robbing a bank?” He inquired. The question caught me off guard. I stared at him, speechless for a moment. Why was I doing this? Then the answer came to me. Because I wanted to. I got diagnosed with a deadly disease, told I would die. Die within a week. That was six days ago. I had one day left to live. And I planned to live it to its fullest, by robbing a bank…

    It wasn’t just an ordinary bank either. It was the mother-load. The jackpot. Lying in this bank, guarded by cameras and lasers, was the biggest diamond in the world. My mouth just watered thinking about handling that precious jewel.

    “Peter? Peter, are you okay?” A voice suddenly said, breaking through my thoughts. Snapping awake, I glared at Dan, who stared at me with concerned eyes. “Idiot, keep your voice down,” I hissed. Dan didn’t even flinch, his hard gaze staring me down. “Let’s get going,” I said abruptly, starting to crawl away slowly. Dan scoffed in disbelief. “Peter, not all the cameras are down,” he said, a smug smile spreading across his face. I glared at him, my eyes radiating with fury. “How long till they are down?” I growled. Dan shrugged nonchalantly.

    “Ten minutes? Maybe twenty?” He guessed. I nearly shouted with anger. Ten minutes?!? That was outrageous! I only had a day to live! Not even! I didn’t want to spend twenty minutes of my life sitting with this filthy, idiot. “Screw this” I snarled, getting slowly to my feet. A series of pops sounded up my back as I got up. I groaned with pleasure, relieved to be free. “What are you doing?!” Dan screeched, his voice high with panic. “I’m getting that jewel” I laughed, my voice pitched high with excitement, relishing the oncoming challenge. Then, without a second glance, I darted off, disappearing almost immediately into the dark interior of the bank.

    Dan caught up with me halfway through. I was trying to get a door unlocked when I felt a hand on my shoulder. Dan quickly got to work, and within seconds had picked the door. For that, I was thankful. I gave Dan a grateful glance as I went past, but that was the only courtesy he’d get. Dan may be the man that is helping me rob this bank, but I still consider him my inferior. Although, as I crept through the twisting hallways of the bank, I knew that without Dan, I wouldn’t even be here. A tiny part of me wondered if I was too harsh if I should stop, live my last day with pleasure. But the rest of me pushed it away, denying my rational thoughts. But yet, that tiny part remained a little work inside of me, eating away at my consciousness. I growled, clenching my fists, trying to concentrate. “Dan, how far away are we?” I snapped. Dan jumped slightly at my harsh tone. “Only a couple minutes,” he murmured. I felt a squirm of worry. I’d lost track of time, meaning I didn’t know when I’d die, except for some time today. That was worrying. I picked up the pace, anxiety making me reckless. And that was my undoing…

    I didn’t even notice the laser. It so faint, hidden within the dark shadows. The very tip of my toe brushed it, and at that very moment, a blaring alarm went off. I clapped my hands over my ears, trying to block out the piercing sound. “Dammit!” Dan shouted, his voice fearful. “You’ve tripped the alarm, Peter!”
    I felt a burst of terror at those words. The cops would be here within seconds. “Run!” I yelled, darting off. I heard Dan’s pounding footsteps behind me, his heavy breathing, making my neck itch. I saw a turn looming ahead of me, splitting into two ways. “Which way? Left or right?” I shouted. “Left!” Dan screamed, his voice raw with fear. I took a sharp left, and saw, to my surprise, a huge carven in front of me. Dan came to a halt behind me; his footsteps were heavy and exhausted. “Is this it?” I whispered, quiet with awe. Dan just nodded, taking deep, gulping breaths.
    I let out a chuckle that slowly turned into a full-blown laugh. It bounced off the ceilings, echoing through the big dome. “I’ve done it!” I screamed, wild with glee. I turned around in a circle, my eyes taking in the tremendous view. The diamond was forgotten. That was until I spotted a faint glimmer in the corner of the room…

    My eyes riveted on that spot, I started to walk forward, my footsteps light and delicate. I was halfway there was the pain hit. It was dull at first, but then it struck, coming as a crippling pain in my chest. I gasped, stumbling to my knees. “No, no, no,” I muttered, my lips numb. “This can’t be happening.” My sickness had come. My day was up. It was time for me to die. A sob welled up inside my throat. “I will get that diamond,” I snarled, pushing myself slowly upwards. Stumbling heavily, I lurched towards the diamond, seeing its beautiful, glittering surface. “Yes,” I whispered. I tried to reach out my hands. But cried out as another wave of pain hit me. The end was near. I could feel my insides shutting down. It was only a matter of seconds. “Noooo,” I cried. Then with a scream of pure anger, I launched myself forward. And then, at the exact same moment, the pain became excruciating. I screamed, seeing the dazzling diamond right in front of me. So close, yet so far. My fingers stretched out, seeing the beautiful jewel. Right before it disappeared…

    My lifeless body crashed to the ground, already becoming cold. My fingers were curled into claws, grasping towards the diamond, that object I cherished, put my short life on the line for. The beautiful object that I never even got to touch…

    Reply
    • September 6, 2019 at 10:38 am
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      This story is a diamond in the rough ( in my best cave of wonders voice).

      Ok, all puns aside. YES! what a way to finish off your life, however someone should have told Peter he can’t take the riches with him when he dies.
      The readability of this story was really good. It kept me engaged the whole time, which is a big win in my book. I love the idea of a final adrenaline rush before meeting your maker.
      Great story!

      Reply
    • September 11, 2019 at 5:48 am
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      Hi there!

      The exhilarating pace of this story drew me in and I wouldn’t let go of it till I got to the end. Which checks the first and foremost box in the list of what makes a good piece of fiction. A page-turner, if it was a physical book 🙂

      The premise was less convincing to me. I mean, this guy who wants to top his life-story by stealing a very material thing just before his big farewell. I can’t quite figure out why (some) people attach so much importance to things like diamonds in life. Let alone in death. But maybe that’s just me.

      I get the thrill bit of robbing a bank. A dangerous amusement ride on the last day of his life, sort of thing. Maybe he had a dull life and wanted a final high now that he had nothing to lose. To do what he always wanted to but never had the guts for. But then again, he had the ride, but was still so disappointed for not getting hold of the actual diamond in the end.

      I thought the diamond may have some elixir-like powers that could turn the tide and extend Peter’s lease on earth, by simply touching it. That could perhaps up the ante. Getting hold of this diamond might’ve been essential to his survival. But then it might end up quite like an Indiana Jonesish clichè… we’ve been there, done that.

      This story reminds me of a documentary I watched many years ago about a man who made visiting the exact geographic center of Asia his lifetime goal. It wasn’t that easy. It was in the USSR and the Cold War was on, with near zero percent chances for an American to obtain a visa. (And his “reason for visiting” entry on his application form must have looked a bit suspicious to the Soviets!). But his visa finally came… just days after he died. I still remember this film well because its premise was so unusual, even bizarre. But it was a true story.

      Reply
    • September 15, 2019 at 11:55 am
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      A very pacey story – great momentum. The technical details help authenticity: the cameras with their red lights, the picking of the door, the laser beam. A quite realistic choice for last wish before you die; people have bucket lists, and they often include adrenalin rushes. I kind of like that Peter doesn’t make it – it’s a nice downbeat ending, and a ‘crime doesn’t pay’ message.

      I had doubts about a couple of things: This line: “I took a sharp left, and saw, to my surprise, a huge carven in front of me.” Did you mean ‘cavern’, and is there a cavern in the bank? There have been stories narrated from beyond death (the film ‘Sunset Boulevard’, for example), but I don’t think your story would have lost anything by having a third-person narrator. I think you could have left out ‘Robbing a bank’ from this line: “Peter, if I may ask, why are we doing this? Robbing a bank?” – then made the reveal at the end of the paragraph (as you do – it’s a kind of repeated reveal – maybe a slip?) You could maybe have put dialogue on separate lines for each new speaker (standard formatting and easier on the eye).

      A brisk read and a good interpretation of the theme.

      Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 2:57 pm
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      Interesting read. Amazing what people can want to do when they don’t have long to live.
      It is a pity he did not achieve his last minute wishes.
      Banks are thieves themselves with their charges they slap you with. That bank would have had a taste of their own medicine if one of them stole the diamond.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 7:12 am
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      It looks like Dan could walk (or run) away with the prize Peter so desired. The same sort of plot line crossed my mind for a brief moment, but I rejected it on the basis you can’t take it with you. Although I did briefly consider ‘suicide by cop ‘ as an ending. Interesting story that I think needs a bit of tightening, but all in all, it kept my interest.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 8:31 am
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      An exciting piece! Although I do not know if I’d use the last day of my life to rob a bank. But it’s fun to read!

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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      This was an interesting idea of robbing a bank for the thrill before dying. My only question is how did he know down to the time when he was going to die? That would be pretty unusual for anyone other than a suicide. But the greed he had even as his heart gave out was so intense.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:34 pm
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      Hi Writer 2019

      A nice take on the prompt. For me, the finish is a little too glib in that “You” died right on cue which was very inconvenient in the circumstances. It’s amazing what people will do when they think the end is nigh.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
  • September 6, 2019 at 10:27 am
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    Theme Question!!
    Before I dive in I have a small question, as I’d hate to write a whole story incorrectly. Does it have to be based on the 1 main character having just a week to live and how they use it? Can I write a tale that incorporates only having a week to live but not necessarily in a ” Hey how do I live this week” kind of way?
    Thanks in Advance.

    Reply
    • September 7, 2019 at 1:27 pm
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      That’s what I’m going for, Kristin (“…a tale that incorporates only having a week to live but not necessarily in a ‘Hey how do I live this week’ kind of way?”) … so I’m hoping it’s ok.

      Reply
  • September 7, 2019 at 7:53 am
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    Well done Kristen!!!!

    Reply
  • September 9, 2019 at 6:29 pm
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    CATFISH

    “Me? I don’t know. Let me think.”

    Taylor leans back against the wall, raising the stool on two legs. He stares at the ceiling and the fan whirring slowly, silently round.

    “I suppose you’ve got to go with pleasure first.”

    The word makes him smirk.

    “Yeah, some pleasure, familiar and not. For example, there’s a restaurant I really love – you know, that Italian down by the docks? I go there at least once a month, but it never gets old. Simple, friendly, and the best veal parmigiana you could ever have. I can taste it now.”

    He licks his lips.

    “And wine. I love wine, and I know a bit about it, too, but I can only afford the really cheap stuff on my salary. So if I knew I only had one week, hanging onto my savings wouldn’t be an issue. So I’d buy myself something French – a Château Margaux maybe. And I’d open it and finish it in one sitting. I know – vulgar, right? But then I wouldn’t care, would I?”

    The idea brings a brief laugh – not caring would throw up many possibilities.

    “That film ‘Scent of a Woman’? – you know, the one with Al Pacino. The scene where he gets his guide to help him drive a Ferrari – ‘cos he’s blind, isn’t he? I loved that scene. I’d do that, too – hire a Ferrari for the afternoon and just go screaming down the highway. Ah man! The speed of that thing! Not caring if you crashed, not caring if you got caught. That would be something.”

    He rocks forward, as if he were in the car, slowing down.

    “Man … a Ferrari. That’s one helluva beautiful car. Then there’s that other scene in the film – where Al goes to a hooker. But it’s not just any old street hooker. No. He’s got money that he won’t be needing, ‘cos he aims to commit suicide later, remember? So he goes to a really top-class one. We don’t see her, but we can imagine. She’d be like a Ferrari on legs … fine lines, slender, but with curves in all the right places, and responsive to the slightest touch. I don’t do hookers, but with only a week left, and no time to feel the guilt, why not?”

    A fly settles on his arm and he slides his hand up behind it, catching it as it takes off. He squeezes his fist tight and throws the lifeless body down onto the gray tiles.

    “Yeah, forbidden pleasures. That would be the time to try them. Like, you know … I’ve always been curious but terrified at the same time: heroin. I’ve had people in here – wrecks of people – who’ve gone beyond the pleasure to the need. But when you can get some sense out of them, they’ll tell you about the first times – the golden warmth, the euphoria, the sense of being … free of all cares. Yep, I think I’d give that a go for sure. No time to get addicted, y’see. No time to get destroyed by it.”

    He nods his head, agreeing with himself. But then his face goes serious, a trace of shame settling there.

    “But you know, after all these little binges, the one thing that would give me the most pleasure, the deepest pleasure, would be to spend time with my family.”

    Now Taylor breaks into a full, sunny smile, lighting him up like a neon sign.

    “I’m not married, I think I told you. And I live with my ma and pa and my little sister, Nancy. But it’s good – I don’t feel trapped or frustrated. Quite the opposite. I’m free to do what I want, but when I want to be with them, it’s so good. There’s so much love in that house. So yeah, I’d spend time with my family for sure.”

    He takes a pack of Marlboro out of his shirt pocket and removes two cigarettes. He lights one and passes it through the bars. The man on the bed sits up and nods a ‘thanks’.

    “What about you, Billy Joe?”

    The young man scratches the stubble on his chin, takes a deep draw on the cigarette and exhales smoke in a long sigh.

    “Family …”

    He shakes his head gently, looking down at his white slippers.

    “I ain’t got much. I ain’t got hardly none. I got some uncles and aunts up state, and some cousins, but they don’t have nothin’ to do with me, on account of my pa, who was a bad lot. My ma … well she died young. Yeah, heroin’s a bitch all right.”

    He takes another draw on his cigarette and spits on the floor, spreading it out under his slipper.

    “But then there’s my brother …”

    He pauses, his eyes darkening. Taylor waits for him to continue, but prompts him when he doesn’t.

    “You’re twins, right?”

    “Right. Twins. Identical.”

    “There’s something I’ve always wanted to know. Is it true what they say? That you have … like … a spiritual connection?”

    Bill Joe thinks about the question, then spits on the floor again.

    “Maybe, in the past. Then this. No spiritual connection put me here.”

    Taylor is about to ask another question but Bill Joe answers it.

    “It was him what done it, y’see. I’ve never been in that bar in my life. And I sure as hell never killed nobody. No, he done it all right. And the funny thing is – though it ain’t as funny as all that – he used me as his alibi. He said that he was where I was. There was witnesses, too. And he’s always had the gift of words, know what I mean? He spoke his filthy lies and they believed him and not me. So here I am.”

    Taking a long draw on his cigarette, Taylor looks hard into Billy Joe’s eyes. He is a good judge of character, Taylor, and now he is prepared to believe the man who has stretched back on his bed. But he knows that there is no chance of a reprieve from the current Governor, not with elections coming up.

    Taylor stands up, adjusts his holster and dons his hat. His shift is coming to a close, but before his substitute arrives, he wants to know something.

    “So, Billy Joe.” His voice is reverential now, with a note of sympathy. “What would you do with this week … if you could?”

    Bill Joe stares at the fan on the ceiling. His voice even and cool.

    “Why, I’d search out that sonofabitch – sorry ma – and I’d gut him like a goddam catfish.”

    Along the corridor, a buzzer and the metallic clang of a door heralds Taylor’s substitute.

    .

    Reply
    • September 12, 2019 at 9:53 am
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      Phil,

      Another good story from you. You had me believing that the two men were cellmates or in adjoining cells. When I realized that one was a cop (or deputy) that changed my perception of the story.

      I was a little confused at the end. What was the purpose of reminiscing about what someone might do if they had one week to live, especially since Taylor seemed to do most of the talking?

      I had many questions. I’m assuming Billy Joe is on death row with no chance of a reprieve, so he only had a week left to live. What did Billy Joe do to warrant death? Was Taylor trying to lull Billy Joe into a false sense of camaraderie to gain information? For what purpose? Was he trying to torture the guy by talking about things Billy Joe would never see or do again (women, good food, wine, fast cars, etc.)? Was the deputy sounding him out to see if he was a danger to anyone (namely his twin brother)? Maybe justifying Billy Joe’s death sentence? Is he seeking proof of Billy Joe’s innocence?

      I wanted to know more. Great work.

      Adi

      Reply
      • September 17, 2019 at 6:53 pm
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        Thanks for that, Adi. My intention (though the reader can interpret things differently is he/she wants) is to show what people usually say for that question about having a limited time to live (Taylor’s thoughts) and contrast it with what Billy Joe would want to do: he’s so consumed by bitterness and hatred for his twin that he would spend the time hunting him down and killing him. Taylor tells Billy Joe his thoughts because the latter asks him: (“Me? I don’t know. Let me think” is a response to the question that was made before the story begins). Taylor’s innocently making conversation – no cruelty intended.

        Reply
        • September 18, 2019 at 4:16 pm
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          I think I watch too many police dramas and true crime stories! LOL. Great story and I’m glad there was no cruelty intended.

          Reply
    • September 14, 2019 at 1:36 pm
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      Hahaha,
      Great story Phil. Fabulous reveal. A guy on death row (who’s innocent, of course) talking to one of the guards. (When on death row, you get 24 hour guards.) That second to last line reveals his true nature, and the fact that both brothers are, in all likelihood, lethal.

      Reply
      • September 16, 2019 at 2:59 am
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        Great story well crafted Phil. You leave the ending hanging making your reader ponder … I really like the way you manipulated your reader responses.

        Reply
        • September 17, 2019 at 7:00 pm
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          Thanks, Ilana!

          (“You leave the ending hanging …” – No, I think it would be lethal injection in that State 😉 )

          Reply
      • September 17, 2019 at 6:57 pm
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        Thanks, Ken! I’m not sure that’s Billy Joe’s ‘true nature’, tbh (at least it’s not what I intended) – its just that his extreme circumstance has twisted his mind.

        (Thank you for not mentioning the mis-spelling of Billy Joe’s name … oh! What do you mean you hadn’t noticed? Darn it!)

        Reply
        • September 18, 2019 at 12:46 pm
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          Hi Phil,
          Another great pieceof writing that works perfectly for me. It’s really interesting what other people read ( or don’t read) into stories.
          It all seemed very natural in the dialogue. Why would Billy Joe have any qualms about what he said at that point in his life. However, if we put ourselves in his place, he must have been a raging inferno of anger and fury. I’m not sure that his final threat is necessarily an indication of a deeply psychotic state. I think in those circumstances I would feel much the same and I am (almost) normal. Just don’t ask around my neighbourhood for confirmation of that.
          Kind regards,
          Ken Frape

          Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 2:49 pm
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      Great story, Phil.
      I like the many imageries that the conversation conveys in the reader’s mind as it unfolds.
      I was fooled into thinking that both are inmates, on death row. Nice surprise to discover that Taylor is a friendly cop.

      Reply
      • September 17, 2019 at 7:02 pm
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        Thanks, Chitra! Glad I fooled you (in the nicest possible way!)

        Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 5:44 am
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      Dialogue-driven, atmospheric, succulent too at times as it’s harrowing at others. But often at the same times. It’s this paradox that pulled me apart while reading and now while soaking in well what I’ve just read: distressingly knowing that one is soon to die while at the same time having the perfect chance to be euphoric and taste all the forbidden fruits one would never dare even getting close to. I’m talking about Taylor’s predicament; that’s the story that’s had the bigger impact on me. Billy Joe’s is another thing, I don’t want to be there. But it’s an interestingly dramatic story too.

      “Not caring would throw up many possibilities” – hmmm, this is one line to keep. It’s tempting to take your advice and consider every week that’s coming as the last week. Why wait for the real last one? Life could take a much more interesting turn, couldn’t it? Taylor says so. I mean, let’s just say it’s not merely seven days, but maybe seven-thousand if we’re lucky, or seventeen-thousand for some – it’s still in any case finite. Some thoughts to really ponder upon there…

      Good stuff, Phil, good stuff. Very nicely written too, not a bit of it sounded pedantic or unrealistic to me.

      Ken

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 7:26 am
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      When I finally realized where this story was going, I wondered aloud what the last request would be. (I actually said ‘Where the Hell is Phil going with this?’) Then you spring the revenge line. Well done, my man, well done. Loved it. You took the prompt and, while I haven’t read all the stories yet, gave us a scenario where the time line was one week without scrambling for a medical reason which is so unpredictable. Good story, mate – worthy of a high vote.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 8:38 am
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      Great story! Perfect use of the prompt, and a pleasure to read. I particularly like the passage, where the guard tells what he would like to do. Because that’s what we all thought at the first moment when we read the prompt. His wishes are so normal that we are all the more surprised when we learn how the story goes on from there.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:05 pm
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      Another great one. I like the “what if” interpretation of the prompt you used. I could totally picture the two and their conversation, so you did a great job with realism, Phil.

      Reply
  • September 10, 2019 at 4:05 pm
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    You Just Never Know
    1200 words

    The receptionist greeted me with a pleasant smile. “Hi. Name and birthdate, please. We want to make sure we have the right patient.”

    I nodded with a smile of my own, “Doug Williams, November 15, 1966.”

    A few taps on her computer keyboard and she asked, “You’re here to see Dr. Satterby?”

    “Yes.”

    “Actually, Dr. Satterby is unavailable, Dr. Agarwal will be seeing you instead.”

    I’d met Dr. Agarwal previously in the absence of Dr. Satterby and found him to be a pleasant fellow. “That’ll be fine,” I said.

    A moment later a young nurse in green hospital garb opened the door and looked around. “Mr. Williams?”

    “That would be me.”

    “Birthdate?”

    “November 15, 1966.”

    She waved me on with the file in her hand after a glance at it. “Yep, that’s it. Can’t be too careful.”

    I followed her down a hallway smelling of antiseptic. She led me to a room and opened the door. “Dr. Agarwal will be right in. I’ll tell him you’re here.”

    I glanced around the room. It wasn’t as sterile looking as the rest of the clinic. There were a couple of diplomas on the wall, one of them from John Hopkins which was impressive.

    The door opened and Dr. Agarwal walked in. He looked exactly as I remembered him. Black hair, dark brown skin and the whitest teeth I ever saw. I took the hand he held out, “Doug Williams.”

    “I know. Sit down,” he said, as he made his way to his desk chair and sat down himself.

    He looked at the file for a few minutes as if reabsorbing the contents to pass the info on to me in terms I could understand. He folded his hands in front of him and looked me directly in the eye. “I wanted to look at this one more time before we talked. You had a series of CT scans recently. The last one being Wednesday of last week?”

    I simply nodded, with a bad feeling slowly stealing over me. His demeanor had darkened slightly, just enough to tell me this could be bad news about a serious condition. I could feel my body tensing. “Yes, last Wednesday.”

    He shook his head. “I wish we could have waited for Dr. Satterby, but the results are too serious to ignore and he’s in Peru. I’ve gone over and over these test results and have consulted with several of my colleagues, even reaching back to my teaching professors at John Hopkins.”

    I felt the blood rushing to my ears and could actually hear my heartbeat pulsing, pushing the blood through my arteries. “Spit it out Doc,” I said. “You’re making me nervous.”

    “Mr. Williams you have a rare and very serious condition. I can’t let you walk out of here without you knowing. Although we are never sure, the facts that present themselves give you somewhere in the vicinity of a week to live.”

    I could feel the blood drain from my face, yet everything seemed calm, as if my body recognized that this was not the moment to freak out. My thoughts were fast and furious: My God, a week to live, What am I going to tell my wife? Will it be painful? Are you sure you have the right person? There must be some mistake. I only came in for a complete physical and now I have a week to live? You just never know, I guess.

    “What’s my condition called?” He rattled off some long latin name and explained it had something to do with my abdominal aorta; some kind of aneurism that was totally inoperable and if they even tried, the operation would probably kill me. There wasn’t even medication for it.

    I sat in silence gathering my questions. Then, I asked them one by one, each of them answered in turn by Dr, Agarwal. Death would be swift and almost instantaneous. There will be no pain until just seconds before the end,

    “What do you suggest I do,” I asked, needing some sort of comfort.

    “I’d get my affairs in order, then do those things that I had time to do. It’s up to you really. Maybe you want to sit on a beach drinking a Mai Tai in Hawaii watching the sun go down, or perhaps this would be the time to jump out of an airplane if you’d thought about that but were afraid. There would be no reason to be afraid, now.”

    I smiled for the first time since he announced the news. “Yeah, without a parachute. Then I could go on my terms, not God’s.”

    “When we give you a week to live, it may be less, it may be more, but I’ve seen this before. The longest I’ve seen was ten days. You didn’t seem the type of person that would want to ‘not’ know,” he said.

    I left his office and drove straight home. I poured a few fingers of Scotch over ice and as my wife watched in amazement, downed it. Then poured another. I told her everything I learned from the doctor, and took the time to explain what I wanted to do. There are no children, just the two of us. I wanted to get my affairs in order in the next two days and then spend my last days with her at our cabin on the North California coast overlooking the ocean.

    When you have only a small amount of time, it goes by quickly. The weather along the coast was beautiful. My wife and I talked about everything, holding onto each other, laughing at those crazy times in our life, skipping over the sorrows. It had been a week. My plan was perfect. I told her I was going for a walk and would be back in an hour. I walked to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean, a mile or so from the cabin.

    I resolved my conflicts as I gazed at the ocean waves crashing into the rocky shore below. I started to take my last step before oblivion – I would determine my fate, not God.

    I heard a car horn blowing incessantly, getting closer. I turned and saw our convertible speeding toward me. The car screeched to a stop. My wife was almost incoherent. Finally, she was able to make sense. “The doctor’s office called. There was a mixup. There were two Doug Williams who had taken CT scans. His birthday is November 15, 1965. His results had been mixed up and placed in your file. You’re not going to die.”

    After I calmed down, I hugged her and said, “Let’s go into town and have some dinner and a few drinks. I’ll buy.”

    My wife laughed, “Let’s go big spender.” As we drove down the coast, she said, “You were going to jump, weren’t you?”

    Ignoring her and needing to say something, I said, “I’m just thinking about the other Doug Williams. He only has a day or so to live. It seems so unfair that he can’t leave on his terms, instead of God’s.”

    Neither of them heard or saw the logging truck that hit and killed them.

    Reply
    • September 11, 2019 at 12:19 pm
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      What a great story, Roy! Loved its warmth, the ease with which it flowed, and the twist at the end, which I sort of expected.
      Now I read of your survival story and admire that too. Will wait for more great stories.

      Reply
    • September 12, 2019 at 9:35 am
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      Great story Roy! So happy you are back and cancer free! That last line was powerful. I never saw that coming. I was feeling sorry for the other Doug Williams. Great misdirection. Wow. You haven’t lost any of your wonderful writing skills. Keep it up! Adi

      Reply
    • September 14, 2019 at 1:49 pm
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      Hah! Great story. Fabulous writing Roy, very smooth and realistic.
      I saw the one thing coming long before you revealed it, but even I didn’t see that last little twist in the road! Very good last second twist.
      Glad to hear that you’re feeling well. (Does this mean I can start harassing you again? Or should I wait another couple of weeks? I’m overflowing with ironic remarks. E pluribus ipso flatulence.) I don’t speak Latin either, never needed to.
      Great story, Roy.

      Reply
      • September 18, 2019 at 7:49 am
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        You may begin with the harassment immediately. I plan on being around for a long time. Well, at least longer than a week. Thank for your kind remarks. And regarding your sense of humor, or humour – as Phil and the two other Kens would say – go for it, and please don’t disappoint. There, I’ve thrown the gauntlet, or slapped you with one of my gloves, go for it.

        Reply
    • September 15, 2019 at 12:42 pm
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      That’s a really well-written story, Roy. The section in which the doctor breaks the news is terrific. We the reader know what’s coming, but Doug doesn’t … until he does; the tension there is very well established. Choosing to spend his last days with the wife he so clearly loves is … well .. the perfect choice. As is the decision to be the one to decide the moment … then we get the welcome reprieve. I personally think that you’d have done better to finish on the penultimate (nicely poignant) thought, rather than the shock ending out of left field. But it sounds – from other comments – like that’s just me.

      Welcome back again!

      Reply
      • September 16, 2019 at 3:00 am
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        Well written with a twist at the end. Great!

        Reply
        • September 18, 2019 at 8:02 am
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          Thanks, I appreciate your comments. I liked your story also and will go back and read it again.

          Reply
      • September 17, 2019 at 3:28 pm
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        Well written story of mistaken identity by the doctor, Roy. A nice twist at the end. I didn’t see that coming.

        I once attended the doctors’ surgery when they took the wrong file out of a man with the same birth dates as mine. They called for the man and I remember wondering what happened to him. When I went to complain of the 1 and hour wait and being forgotten, they realised their mistake.
        You won’t blame me if I can’t trust the medical staff.

        Reply
        • September 18, 2019 at 8:28 am
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          My wife had her doubts when she read my story about the plausibility of my premise..Thanks for your comments and thanks for verifying my plot line as a real life scenario.

          I just read your story and have to admit it hit close to home. My wife has been my rock, so your ending was personally satisfying. Well written, too. Some of your dialogue needs a little work. I think if you try reading it out loud you will be able to realize those comments don’t sound as if someone really said them, and they can be rewritten into remarks that seem more real in casual conversation. But, all that aside, a nice story to read.

          Reply
          • September 18, 2019 at 4:31 pm
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            Thanks for reading and commenting on my story.

            Points are taken. I had a bit of a struggle with the title. It was ‘Health is Wealth’, then ‘Money can’t Buy Everything’ and settled on ‘Dying Wish’

            I thought of you after writing the story and wonder if you would be okay to read it.

    • September 18, 2019 at 8:19 am
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      Hey Roy,

      “So it’s not me, after all, phew!” must be the greatest relief in one’s life. It’s nice that even, in that moment of euphoria, Doug Williams spares a thought for his unfortunate one-year-older namesake… Good guy, our Doug. Pity that logging truck seems to come out of nowhere!

      I think I’d have let him jump off the cliff, right as his wife arrives with the good news, instead of using the rather extraneous device of the logging truck to bring forth the final drama. I know, you probably wanted his wife to die with him for a more romantic sort of ending in lieu of dying alone of the supposedly lethal medical condition. If that’s so, you can have her follow her husband closely down the precipice while looking hopelessly at his dead body spread on the rocks at the bottom, waving futilely his real hospital results – pushed by her own car. In the panic, seeing him going down, she forgot to pull her car’s handbrake…Alas! But we don’t want to leave our readers contending with a weeping widow, do we?

      I mean your double-ending is fine, but perhaps the truck did come into the scene rather “conveniently” to close off a story, that could have already finished. Of course, if you were to let Doug go without ever realizing he was not the one meant to die, as I’m suggesting, you’d then lose the opportunity to have him very nobly and poignantly think of the other Doug. Which would be a pity, because I liked that too. But I suppose something’s gotta give.

      There may be some over-emphasis on the identification details in the beginning of the story. Some might say it’s an important element, for it foreshadows what will eventually happen (the mix-up). But I’m afraid, the over-emphasis (nurse/receptionist brings up the issue twice), might lead to a premature reveal for some readers. Just saying – it didn’t happen to me, although I had a fleeting suspicion there may be a patient mix-up coming. There is also the change of doctors to justify the greater likelihood of a mix-up. I think you shouldn’t have had Doug meet Dr Agarwal in the past, so that there could have been no way the Doc would realize he’s got the wrong dude in front of him.

      The consultation dialogue is a masterpiece IMO. I felt the tension in both the patient and the doctor as the sad news was being communicated. Brilliant! There is even greater human drama there, I think, than in the real-action drama at the cliff/cliff road-side. The idea of one’s controlling his own destiny rather than leaving it in the hands of God is also a massive philosophical point you brought up in this story.

      Btw, I think you gave Doug a hint he didn’t heed that things can’t be that bad. Dr Augur Well. Loved that!

      I also love the fact you mentioned in one of your comments that this story sort off rolled out by itself. I know the feeling – I get a good vibe when that happens to me: a story coming on without me having to do much to carve it out!

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 8:48 am
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      Hello Roy,
      thanks for this beautiful story. Of course, when I read the prompt, I thought about what I would do in that situation. Yes, I would spend time with my loved ones. One week is so short. (By the way: For me the wooden truck was not necessary, I would have let them return to their normal life with this unique experience.)
      Nice to have you back with us.
      Yours berlinermax

      Reply
      • September 18, 2019 at 9:50 am
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        Thank you Ken Miles and Berliner Max for your comments and suggestions. I had to revise this story considerably and finally decided to go with a twist ending which was meant to suggest that God did make all the decisions rather than have any man (or woman) thwart His wishes. Originally I was going to go with dialogue something like this when he tells his wife the situation.

        “So here’s what i’d like to do, Sheila: spend most of my last days with you in our mountain cabin, then come home to that little restaurant where I proposed to you. Then, I’d like to go to our home where we can spend my last few hours drinking wine and making love to you all night.”

        “That’s easy for you to say, Doug, but I have to get up and start making funeral arrangements the next morning.”

        After thinking about it, I thought it best to leave it out. It was probably the best idea I had – leaving that out.

        My wife suggested after I had submitted the story (with her blessing) that I have him go back to the cabin with her and spend his final moments with her until the end. Although it was too late, that might have been just as good an ending or even better, but alas, could have, would have, should have. I could then have had the living Doug have those noble thoughts about the unlucky Doug who suddenly succumbed without knowing why.

        The more beta readers the better, I say, to get other ideas submitted to that no longer foggy brain of mine.

        Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:12 pm
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      This was a great one, Roy. The doctor’s office was very convincing, almost like you have experience in that area (at least it was good for something am I right?) I love the last line like god was all “you’ll leave on my terms!” But I’m glad they both had a great last week together.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:55 pm
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      Hi,

      I really liked this story and the way it cleverly used the prompt but then didn’t if you know what I mean.
      It is nicely written and the dialogue flows effectively.
      I have only one issue but I am afraid it is quite a big one. I think you gave the game away by mentioning twice about making sure to see the correct patient, starting with the first paragraph and confirming it soon after. As soon as I read those sentences I knew. That is I thought I knew but the final sentence was like a punch in the guts telling me not to be so condescending!

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • September 20, 2019 at 10:28 am
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        Fortunately for most people here apparently, they haven’t been in Doug Williams’s or my situation, but when you visit a doctor’s office in the States, and or any clinic, each person that comes in contact with you asks for your name and birthday. However, having said that, I probably could have disguised it a bit better. At the cancer clinic they give you a wrist band with a fixed number that is read by a scanner before every action taken to ensure compatibility and to minimize harmful mistakes.

        I have a cousin who lived in a small town of maybe 1500. In the same town was a young man with the same and exact name and birthday wholived
        there also for awhile. One day my cousin was driving a delivery truck in another small town about 100 miles away. I walked into his mother’s house that afternoon and found her crying. Seems she heard on the radio that her son was killed in a driving incident. Her son walked in about twenty minutes later. You can imagine the joy she felt. We found out later the other young man was killed, not her son. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

        Reply
        • September 20, 2019 at 11:34 am
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          Roy,

          You are absolutely correct about our hospitals and physician office staff always making you repeat who you are, your birth date and what you are there for. It is especially annoying when going for surgery. From the person who checks you in to every single nurse, CNA, intern, specialist, and God knows who, that you come into contact with make you repeat it over and over. UGH! It’s enough to make you scream. And then they put their initials or mark on where you are to have surgery (knee, shoulder, etc.) in black permanent marker so they don’t make a mistake. By the time it gets to that point, I’m doubting their abilities to get things right if they have to go to such lengths. And those questions come AFTER they’ve scanned your wrist band for the one thousandth time! After all that, they jolly well better not make a mistake!

          Reply
          • September 20, 2019 at 2:43 pm
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            I think the critiques were to tell me to use poetic license and not try to give the ” mistaken” identity aspect away so soon. I even telegraphed it with, “Can’t be too careful, you know.”. Having thought this through, I wish I had done that, in addition to maybe changing that sudden ending, but I’m still in love with the surprise I handed out and the twist on who is really in control for most believers.

          • September 20, 2019 at 2:55 pm
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            Roy,

            Your last line was perfect. I felt that Doug wanting to go on “his terms” and not God’s was something that needed to be addressed and your logging truck did it. I don’t believe that God intentionally kills people or punishes people but He does allow things to happen to us that can put us back on the right track. Too bad Doug didn’t get that chance but he could have made different choices. It was perfect.

            Remind me to tell you sometime of what had transpired the night before I nearly died in 1987. That experience was a huge wake-up call. After I got past the disappointment of still being on earth, I thanked God for sparing me and I told him, ‘Ok, God. You made your point. I’m stronger than I think.’ I learned my lesson and I’ve never questioned Him since then.

  • September 10, 2019 at 4:11 pm
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    First let me get the good news out of the way. I’m totally done with Chemo and all my test results are negative as to cancer. Of course there will be future tests, but basically, I am now a cancer survivor. Thank you, thank you. I’m happy, too. I am feeling much better and was able to have several plot threads and different endings popping through my mind, I had been unable to do that before. The chemo fog has lifted and I feel I can write again. The story I just posted seemed to write itself, and I love it when that happens. So thank you for your thoughts, prayers and well wishes. I appreciate you all so very much. And now, back to your regular programming …

    Reply
    • September 10, 2019 at 4:21 pm
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      Hi Roy,
      So happy for your good news. Look forward to read your stories.
      Chitra

      Reply
      • September 10, 2019 at 6:48 pm
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        Thank you, Chitra. I just posted one, so have a look. Looking forward to being a true part of the group again.

        Reply
        • September 11, 2019 at 12:36 pm
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          Well I certainly appreciate the nice compliment. You really saw the end coming, huh? I need to sharpen my misdirection skills. I thought sure no one could see it. Thanks, and I look forward to getting back to being a regular contributer.

          Reply
    • September 10, 2019 at 5:12 pm
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      He’s back!

      Great news, Roy!

      Reply
      • September 10, 2019 at 6:51 pm
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        He’s baaaaaaack. Turning up like a bad penny. Glad to be part of this again on a regular basis. This cancer shit is hopefully behind me, and I can move on. Got surgery in late October to fix a few things but it should be a piece of cake. I said that last time, too. I’ll be looking at the stories tomorrow and making my critiques and comments and catching back up. Y’all take care, now, ya hear!

        Reply
        • September 10, 2019 at 9:17 pm
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          Go Roy. Cheering for you mate. You’ll kick the bastard cancer in the balls and come up trumps. Should I say that last part. LOL

          Reply
          • September 11, 2019 at 7:57 am
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            Thanks Ilana, it’s totally my intention. I know something someday will do me in, but I’ve got stories to write and too many other things to do before that happens. You just never know.

    • September 10, 2019 at 9:20 pm
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      Join the CSC Cancer Survivors Club. I keep a loaded M16 for the bitch and if it pops its head up I’ll kick it’s ass along with the SIL in Minneapolis. I see them as the one and same. LOL A spray of bullets to keep them both in check and out my sight.

      Reply
      • September 11, 2019 at 7:58 am
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        Now, now. Play nice.

        Reply
        • September 14, 2019 at 6:56 pm
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          Neither cancer nor she are nice. They are both equally vicious and malignant. When someone chooses my mother’s and my brother’s passing to spray vile incentives at me and call me a “pathetic loser” and is a racist Midwest WASP who is fake and has spread lies to all my biological relatives and interfered in my life to destroy a relationship with a man and then signed me up for dating sites – I get 10 times as nasty back. Far as I am concerned she’s like cancer malignant and soul destroying and I hate her as I have never hated anyone in my life and will to my dying day. She is the antithesis of human – a manipulative monster who is narcissistic and the devil incarnate. But what can you expect from a person who drove my brother’s ex girl friend to contemplate suicide while she made jokes about it and wanted to wrest the proceeds from the house they had bought together and both were paying off to her and my brother rather than divide it according to fair and share.
          I remember my brother’s look of horror (he’s a tight ass) when she bought $25USD white lace stockings in 1985 for their wedding. I had a silent smirk to myself and thought serves you right mate, you threw off a loyal woman in a really ugly way for this Trollope.
          My parents refused to go to the wedding and sent me instead. I would have rather taken my
          Israeli partner Ofer at the time to my other brother’s wedding, but my Dad asked me to go. I refused at first and then he begged to save their pride.
          They sent them a bread knife as a wedding present a weird gift. It was kind of embarrassing to deliver it, but I did. I worshipped my old man and would have walked over fire for him and back. Then the trip was a three week night mare and I vowed never to go near Minneapolis again. The racism was unbelievable.
          Several things stood out. After the black waiter delivered food to our table her father Harvey got a laugh from these people when he put down his napkin and said, “Well, now there’s a good nigga doing nigga work. We usta call ‘em niggas, then it was black and later African-American.” He leaned forward and said in a fake whisper, “Far as I’m concerned they still just damn niggas and stink like it too!” They all laughed and I felt sick to my guts.
          Put me off my food and I threw down my napkin and went to the toilet and punched the wall. “What has my brother married into?” I thought. She’s the most manipulative nasty piece of racist white trash and I cannot stand. Never have and never will.

          Reply
          • September 18, 2019 at 6:28 am
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            Ugly stuff, Ilana. Very. Thanks for sharing. But giving her all this head space makes her sound important. She isn’t and doesn’t deserve this starring role in your life. Ignore and move on. Or write a book.

    • September 10, 2019 at 11:27 pm
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      So glad to have you back Roy, and pleased as punch that you are cancer free!!

      Reply
      • September 11, 2019 at 8:00 am
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        It’s been a rocky road, but I’m married to an angel who is as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar. Glad to be back.

        Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 8:53 am
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      Congratulations! We can expect more superb stories from you!

      Reply
  • September 10, 2019 at 9:15 pm
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    One week from home … (1198 words without the title)

    In the council pound pen, Levi lay with his head stretched out over his two front legs. He was trying to sleep. However sleep escaped him. This last family had been his third home. Now they too had abandoned him. He’d tried to be good. A loyal guardian of the home and the people that he had lived with for the past two months, until now.
    He had barked at intruders and even firmly grasped the muzzle of some intrepid intruder that sought to challenge him by poking his nose through the fence slates of this last home he now longed for. That dog’s owner had visited the house briefly and loudly.

    “You lot need a bloody sign for Beware DANDEROUS dog on premises!” He’d screamed at the girl Sharee who answered his loud banging. Sharee had been frightened. Levi could smell her fear and gone into full protective mode. He barked savagely and jumped to almost clear the fence. Nearly. Sharee stood silent and the man went on shaking his muscular tattooed arms.
    “Had to pay $500 for the vet to stitch Defer’s nose and lip back on. Bloody mongrel of yours nearly ripped it right off. Where’re your parents girly?” He thundered.

    Sharee found her tongue. “My step-dad’s at work and so is Mum.”

    “Well, I want to talk to one of ‘em today.” He thrust a paper with a mobile number scribbled on it in Sharee’s face. When she had taken it tentatively from his hand as one would take a scrap from a snarling beast and nodded trembling, he stormed off up the street to a house six doors away. Number 16 where the bikies who were suspected of dealing in illegal substances lived and that made her even more afraid.

    She knew the dogs from that house. They were let out several times a day to roam the common land at the end of the street. They were unleashed and had coloured rope around their necks to serve as collars. Levi was only ever walked by her and her older brother and sister.

    She texted her mother.

    “Ma, a very angry man came round. The owner of the dog that Levi bit through the fence.”

    “Oh shit. Don’t worry love. Levi was on his own property. The other dog was running loose.”

    “Ma he’s from that bikie house up the road.”

    “I’ll be home at 6. We’ll deal with it then. Ok love. XX”

    “Sure, Ma. Luv U heaps.”

    Sharee heard the roar of motor bikes coming down the street, and then the smashing sound of breaking glass. Levi was going berserk, barking and leaping at the fence. Sharee rushed to the front door then hesitated. She opened the door to her parents’ bedroom. Broken glass from two floor to ceiling windows lay scattered across the carpet and the queen bed. Also two huge rocks.

    She pulled the big dog inside. A cross of American pit bull, husky and Australian dingo he was mixture of handsome and fearsome. His tawny coat and big head were dingo, his muscular body and pricked ears with his massive jaws and wide brown eyes belonged to his mastiff heritage. His smarts and loyalty probably owed to his husky dingo cross mother. His father was a pure bred Pit Bull and pedigreed apparently.

    She decided to wait until her parents got home to tell them about the windows and the rocks that caused it. She was darn scared. She went into her bedroom with the dog and locked the door and lay on the bed. Her older brother was at work and her sister was visiting a friend in Melbourne.

    Levi was ecstatic at being allowed to be on the bed with Sharee. He rolled onto his back and begged for a tummy scratch. She gave him a quick scratch. His tongue shot out to lick her face and hand. He whined his pleasure. Then he jumped up and wanted to play, tail wagging and tongue lolling, he scratched at the bed, rolled and laid his head on the pillow, his brown eyes pleading with her to play, and to cuddle him. “I am a good boy.” He seemed to say “and I love you so, sooo much.”

    She patted him distractedly. She was afraid. Were the two rocks a warning or a precursor to something else? Boy, that guy was crazy mad.

    Dan her step-Dad was the first to arrive him. He was a taxi driver and came in for a bite to eat and hoping to touch base with her mum Margo.

    “What the FUCK HAPPENED HERE?” She heard after the slam of the front door. She came out of her room.

    Dan was standing at the door to the bedroom. He was taking in the room, smashed glass and two rocks still sitting on the bed.

    “Sharee???”

    “I think it’s the owner of the dog that Levi bit yesterday. And one of his friends. He paid us a visit.”
    She let the fact sink in. Dan was furious.

    “Did you see him?”

    “Nah. Just heard the bikes and then SMASH, BANG! … Just after his visit. He was pretty threatening!”

    She helped Dan clean the room before Margo arrived home. Later that evening, after the window had been repaired, in the middle of said repair they had a note delivered personally by the Council Animal Officer that stated Levi had to be taken to the pound within twenty four hours or the officers would come down to collect him. He had been identified as a “dangerous animal”. The officer was an ex-bikie and Dan had seen him drinking down at the local hotel with several of their neighbours.
    So the next day Levi was taken to the pound.

    “If we muzzled him could we…?” Sharee and her brother Thomas began. The ranger cut their question short.

    “No. Checked his microchip. This animal has too much history. ALL BAD.”

    “What do you mean?” Margo asked tearfully.

    “Last home, he killed several cats in the street. Savaged a visitor. Man needed 28 stitches to his arm.” The ranger looked up at their surprise. “Guess you did not know that, did you? He’s being scheduled for euthanasia in seven days.”

    “ONE WEEK!” Gasped Sharee and Margo together. “Oh, NO! He just needs the right owner.”

    The ranger looked at them and the dog without pity. “Them’s the rules.”

    On the seventh day, they came for him.

    They took him out of the pen, looping a plastic lasso attached to a metal pole around his neck and dragged him protesting their treatment out of the cage.

    He knew and resisted to the last snapping and biting; trying to fight the strangle hold of the lasso that pulled him into the room that smelt of death.

    They muzzled him and strapped him down to the metal table.

    Then then shaved his fore leg and inserted the needle deep into the vein. He cried and fought. The liquid was cold and rushing darkness began to take him. His heart beat in panic and then slowed.

    He died whimpering, alone after seven days on cold cement in a pound pen.

    Reply
    • September 12, 2019 at 9:28 am
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      Ilana,

      Very intense story and well-written. Your story describes the unpredictable behavior of pits and pit mixes very well. I had a difficult time reading this one. Not because of the writing, but because of the topic. This hit very close to home for me.

      Yesterday (9/11) was my husband’s birthday. He would have been 61. He was killed almost 4 years ago by a dog he adopted from the local Rabies Control facility. They had classified it as a Rottweiler but it clearly had pit bull features in it. He picked up the dog, brought it over to show our son and 3 hours later he was dead – mauled to death by the dog. Tony was 6′ and about 230 lbs so he wasn’t a small man but he was no match for that killer. His death made the national and international news. (The dog was killed by Sheriff deputies when it charged them.)

      You did very well for a tough topic. I’m sorry to say that I did not feel any sympathy for Levi being euthanized. Actually, I was impressed that the dog was euthanized so quickly in your story. In America, you would be surprised at the number of pit bulls and pit mixes that are not euthanized, even after killing an adult or more often, an infant or child. The owners fight relentlessly for their aggressive fur babies, not caring that a human life was lost.

      I’ll get off my soap box now. Didn’t mean to go there. Sorry, folks.

      Adi

      Reply
      • September 12, 2019 at 3:10 pm
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        Adirienne
        When a dog kills a human it should be shot and if it mauls other dogs or livestock. Dogs that show overly aggressive traits that cannot be controlled must be euthanised. Too unpredictable. Too dangerous.
        So sorry you had that tragedy. People will breed dogs and not correctly raise them and control them. The fault often lies with the humans who own them. Pit pulls are not pets. Yes they can be very loving but they are very intelligent, one person hunting or fighting dogs and not for novices.
        Too often inexperienced people breed and rear animals that they do not properly train. Theron lies the tragedy. Put bulls and hunting mastiffs need to be kept in runs and properly trained and exercised. Even the British Bulldog and Husky can become dangerous if not properly cared for and savage livestock and people. I had a husky once but she was a very gentle dog. However not for fowls and even she had a hunting instinct.
        People’s stupidity with dogs is amazing. Your husband may have taken a blooded dog that had been betrayed and mistreated by a previous owner and therein lies the tragedy. ☹️

        Reply
    • September 15, 2019 at 1:03 pm
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      Hi, Ilana. This is, as Adi says, a very intense story; I like the tension that builds up throughout the day, with the constant threat of the bikers just off screen. Adi has a reason not to sympathise with the dog (sorry to hear about what happened), but you put other animal-loving readers on Levi’s side by anthropomorphizing him right at the beginning and making his demise a very poignant event. In fact this time he did no more than bite another aggressive dog that was threatening his/the family’s territory. I got a little flash of ‘Of Mice and Men’ here (“He’d tried to be good.”), but his instincts, like Lennie’s, are too strong for him.

      Reply
      • September 15, 2019 at 2:24 pm
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        Thanks Phil
        Yeah there are many good dogs and cats too that fall foul of owners who either do not train them and things happen, or they ill treat the animal and it loses trust in its human owners understandably or they just neglect them.
        Tragedies lie Adi’s family then happen when they take on an animal from a rescue centre. I had a pit bull / blue heeled cross and I had to muzzle him when we went walking because he was so protective of me. I controlled him with voice, lead and food plus the muzzle always went on outside the house yard. He still pinned a small dog to the ground that came to near me walking. He was killed by thieves whoever entered the house yard one afternoon while I was shopping and five months pregnant with my son.
        It was an awful blow. Very loyal dog. Just over protective. Strangely both dogs would growl at my late mother but loved my father. They would position themselves between my mother and I. Used to upset me no end as I was trying to heal our relationship, but my husky particularly never took to her.

        Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 4:03 pm
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      It is quite refreshing to read your story where you use the prompt into a different mindset, of that of a ferocious dog who has the misfortune of attacking another dog and had to be put down.

      You hear a lot of stories here in England, when big dogs have attacked other dogs, especially , smaller dogs, ripped out animal farms, fowls and ducks in the rivers. They are quite scary to people who are not accustomed to them. It. Seems like people are keeping dogs to keep burglars from their premises.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 8:35 am
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      Wow. Descriptive as if you watched it happen. Good story Ilana. But you need more than 1200 words to really perfect this story. I would have liked if you had the protagonist with the dog at the end, and I also would have liked a bit of comeuppance to the antagonist. But, alas, you didn’t have enough words. Good job,.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 8:59 am
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      What a sad story! The thoughts of a dog who did the right thing and is punished – with death penalty.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:20 pm
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      Such a sad story but the way you told it really made us feel for Levi and Sharee. You do never know when you get a rescue dog, but breed doesn’t make a dog bad, bad owners do. With time, I’m sure Sharee and her family would have brought out the good, unfortunately they didn’t get that opportunity. Sad, but good writing.

      Reply
  • September 11, 2019 at 5:54 pm
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    Interesting, but your story tends to go out on a lot of tangents that you do not fully develop. You would do better to focus on one or two aspects and do those justice. I felt my head whirling after reading your story. Too much happening. Find the purpose of your story. Is it having one week to live and healing the relationship between brother and sister because of approaching death of one of them. Nice to have the idealism of a healing, but realistically if there had been such a blowout it rarely ends in such an ending. Usually one or both die without reconciliation – such is the bitterness of family feuds. Blood feuds are worse and the most irreconcilable …so it’s good that you feel there is some hope.

    Reply
  • September 12, 2019 at 8:16 am
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    One Way Ticket

    By Adrienne Riggs (w-1,113)

    Paula walked slowly out of the doctor’s office with a bemused expression. Her thoughts were tumbling in her head and she had a strange urge to laugh. She glanced at the papers in her hand. This certainly wasn’t an occasion that warranted laughter and she couldn’t explain it, but she felt the urge anyway.

    The cool fall breeze caressed her as she raised her face to the sun and closed her eyes, allowing the wind to blow her long red hair behind her. The sky was blue and leaves of red, yellow, brown, and gold danced in the breezes and rustled among her feet. She loved this time of year. It was a time of change.

    She caught the smell of hot coffee from the café on the corner and headed that way. She smiled at everyone she met and wished them a ‘Good day’. Seating herself at an outside table, she ordered hot coffee with pumpkin spice cream from the young waiter.

    “Would you care for anything else?”

    “No, thank you.” She glanced at his name tag. “This will be just perfect, Kevin!” Paula sat back and sighed. She smoothed the papers from the doctor flat on the table.

    ‘Diagnosis’ – Paula took a pen from her purse and crossed out what was written there. The words didn’t matter.

    ‘Prognosis’ – “If the disease progression continues to follow its aggressive course, life expectancy at this time is 1 week …..” Paula scribbled through the timeframe. Time didn’t matter anymore. Ironically, she felt as if a burden had been lifted.

    ‘What to expect’ – Paula began to giggle and then laugh hilariously as she pictured herself as an interviewer.

    ‘Dr. So-and-so, how nice of you to join us today. We are talking about D-E-A-T-H. You have provided your patients with a “How-to” list including “What to expect when one is dying.” Please tell us Doctor, exactly how do you know what to expect?? Hmmm. Interesting. And when was the last time you died? Please describe your experience in full, we are dying to know more! Oh! How disappointing. Since you are still here, I’m assuming your death was not successful?’

    She laughed until tears came to her eyes. When she saw people in the café seated around her watching, she just laughed harder causing them to laugh as well, even though they had no idea what was so funny. Even Kevin was laughing as he placed her hot coffee in front of her.

    “Well, Miss, you seem to be having a good day.”

    Paula giggled. “It’s the first day of the rest of my life! You know what Kevin? I believe I will splurge today. Would you please bring me the biggest blueberry muffin you have with some butter on the side?”

    “Yes, Ma’am! I’ll be right back” and he hurried off.

    Paula folded the papers from the doctor and took a small notepad from her purse.
    “I need to make a list!” she said aloud. “Hmm.”

    1. No more dieting!

    ‘Eating healthy was obviously a dead end!” She tapped her chin with the pen as she thought.

    2. Turn in notice at work!

    ‘I don’t want to work myself to death!’ she thought, dissolving into more giggles. ‘Especially since I work for myself!’

    3. Cancel home repair man!

    “Ain’t gonna need this house no longer….” she sang softly from the tune, This Ole House. ‘That place could have been a death trap!’ She grinned as she pictured her warm, cozy house in her mind.

    “Here you go, Ma’am. Enjoy!” Kevin placed a plate with a warm blueberry muffin next to her.

    “Thank you, I will!”

    She cut open the muffin and watched the butter melt deliciously into its depths. ‘Yum!’ she thought. Taking a bite, she went back to her list.

    4. Throw the clock and calendar away!

    ‘No more watching time for me! Death will do that.’

    5. No more strenuous exercise!

    ‘That’s a relief! That workout was killing me!’ Paula laughed.

    6. Throw the bills away!

    ‘Come after me now, you filthy buzzards!’ Paula thought gleefully, ‘My bills mean nothing more. You can reach me at my new address, Rolling Hills cemetery.’

    She imagined a commercial for the cemetery. ‘Welcome to Rolling Hills, a unique, gated community. Reside in peace and quiet, and rest assured, your neighbors will never bother you. It’s “The Place” to be, where people are dying to get in!’ She laughed some more.

    Paula paused to finish the delectable muffin and her coffee. She looked over her list. It was very satisfying.

    Paula had no family. Her parents had died when she was in her 20’s and she had never married or had children. She had enjoyed her single life and work as a successful jewelry designer.

    She had a circle of close friends who loved her positive outlook on life and her knack for turning something negative into something positive. Yes, she’d had a good life. It was time for the next chapter.

    She looked up as the waiter returned.

    “Can I get something else for you?”

    “No, thank you, Kevin. You have been very sweet. Here is a tip for you” as she handed him a $100 bill.

    “Uh, Ma’am, I think you made a mistake. This is a hundred dollars!”

    Paula smiled, “It’s no mistake. Just consider it a gift from an angel.”

    “Thank you, Ma’am! You have no idea what this means to me.”

    “Just use it well.”

    “Yes, Ma’am. Can I ask you a question? You seem so happy and positive and you have been a pleasant customer. What has made this day so special?”

    Paula glanced at the folded papers on the table and grinned.

    “I was given a one-way ticket to paradise today and I’m looking forward to it! It’s always been my goal destination. The best part is, my parents will be there too, so we’ll have a great reunion! I haven’t seen them in a while.”

    “That’s awesome!” Kevin exclaimed. “I hope you have a wonderful time.”

    Paula laughed once more as she put her papers in her purse and stood up. “I will, Kevin, I will. I guarantee, the place I’m going to is pure Heaven!”

    “I’d love to go to a place like that” he said wistfully as he cleared the table, “but I couldn’t afford it.”

    “You’ll get there someday.” Paula hugged him impulsively. “And when the time is right, you’ll find the trip is free.”

    She was glowing with happiness as she walked out into the sun. Kevin watched as she strolled down the sidewalk until a bright light blinded him and he could see her no more.

    Reply
    • September 12, 2019 at 10:16 am
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      Now it’s my turn to say WOW. Great story, good flow and it kept my interest until the very end. I thought I knew you pretty well from our past writing days, but your reply to Ilana rocked me. Anyway, good to see your skills haven’t diminished.

      Reply
      • September 13, 2019 at 3:51 pm
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        Thanks Roy! I had fun with this story. I was thinking about the night I nearly died.

        I had an ectopic pregnancy rupture which ruptured a major artery. This was an undiscovered twin to a baby I’d lost 3 weeks earlier. As the staff scrambled around trying to figure out what was wrong, things rapidly got worse as I lost more and more blood internally.

        I was scared at first but when I realized I was dying (way before the hospital staff knew it), a great peace came over me. I didn’t want to leave my children but there was great comfort in knowing where I was going. I was ready to go. I just wanted the pain to stop and I wanted them to let me go.

        I was so prepared to go, that when I woke up in recovery after the emergency surgery, I was actually very disappointed to still be on earth! I guess God wasn’t done with me down here. I certainly learned that I was a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for.

        That experience is what kindled the idea for this story. Glad you enjoyed it!

        As for the experience with my husband, that was devastating and sudden and our son was crushed. Tony and I were divorced but remained close friends for Thomas. When Thomas was diagnosed with serious health issues at age 11, Tony was right there with me to bear it all and was there for every crisis. Losing him was awful. He LOVED dogs and his son. We had all kinds of dogs over the years. For him to killed by a dog was a horribly cruel twist of fate. Even now, when Thomas has a health crisis, I still reach for the phone to call Tony and the pain comes rushing back. Thomas was 20 when Tony died. Here is one of the many articles after his death. (They have Thomas’ age wrong in this one). https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3322096/Animal-lover-57-mauled-death-newly-adopted-dog-taken-home-pound-just-hours-earlier.html

        Reply
        • September 13, 2019 at 5:58 pm
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          I’m sorry you have such bad memories and my story has invoked them. Sorry. ☹️

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          • September 14, 2019 at 7:02 pm
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            Ilana,
            I promise you I’m ok! Your story was well written and didn’t invoke bad memories other than Tony but I was already there since it was his birthday. I am perfectly fine. I believe all things happen for a reason even though we may not always know that reason at the time. My experiences have made me stronger and more empathetic to others in similar circumstances. I hold to faith and keep going. Please don’t be sorry. I am totally good! Adi

    • September 14, 2019 at 2:36 pm
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      Wonderful spin on the prompt, Adi. Positive, upbeat, which you demonstrate in various ways and from several perspectives. Nice.

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    • September 16, 2019 at 6:02 pm
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      This is a terrific story, Adi. Paula laughing in the face of adversity from the word ‘go’ is just … well .. infectious. There are some great jokes (maybe too many, in fact? The number of ‘death’ puns might elicit a few groans by the end). The interaction with Kevin is very well … er … executed, and the ending and last line are excellent. A couple of observations only. This line, coinciding with a moment of very extreme emotion as she leaves the clinic, could perhaps have been more striking: “The sky was blue and leaves of red, yellow, brown, and gold danced in the breezes and rustled among her feet.” (It’s a little flat – ‘blue’? – and on another point … the leaves can only ‘dance among her feet’ if she has more than two! 😉 ) And this line’s superfluous, I think: “She had a circle of close friends who loved her positive outlook on life and her knack for turning something negative into something positive.” It’s describing overtly what you’ve done beautifully elsewhere in the story by simply showing what Paula’s like.

      But this is a smashing story. Really liked it.

      Reply
      • September 18, 2019 at 4:22 pm
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        Thanks for the feedback Phil! You are right. I questioned myself whether I should leave that superfluous bit in there but wanted to get the story in. I’ve got to settle down and take my time writing. These lunch hour stories may not be all they could be. Thanks for reading and commenting. I value your opinion (along with the others on the site.)

        Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 8:34 pm
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      Hi Adi.
      Nice way at looking and feeling about one’s end of life. The reading triggers feelings of the good side of death, of happiness to meet loved ones who have already gone.

      I have come across many people who have gone to the other side. All of them seemed unhappy to, not ready to go. All had more things to see to, to finish.
      The ones who wanted to die have been the ones with mental illness, suffering with chronic depression, an inability to cope with life. Even then they were not happy.

      When I think of my own death i have a warm feeling of seeing the people I miss and would like to see again but there is also the ones that I don’t want to see even their shadow.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 9:06 am
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      Surprise! A woman learns that she has to die, and she reacts happy and relieved. I didn’t expect that. Maybe only a few people will respond this way, but it’s a possibility. Your story has given me a good feeling. So many stories about grief and shock and murder – and then this! Thanks!

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:25 pm
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      I love the way you wrote this. At first, it was like she was hysterical after her diagnosis, but then you see she is genuine and at peace with the life she’s lead. I loved her attitude and your story was uplifting even though it’s about a dying woman. Good job this week!

      Reply
  • September 12, 2019 at 8:25 am
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    Love your upbeat story Adrianne so glad you are back here. Very positive story👌🙌

    Reply
  • September 12, 2019 at 10:14 am
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    Neha,

    I loved the premise of your story and wished that mending real life relationships were that easy. Family feuds are some of the hardest to mend.

    (I know. I have a sister who doesn’t speak to me (don’t know why) and hasn’t for years. She will text once in a while if she wants something. She hasn’t been to see our parents in over 10 years.)

    Instead of describing what Alice and her brother did during the week, I would have loved to have seen some quality brother-sister time, heart healing dialogue, tears and laughter, etc. The story, to me, made that last week seem a little superficial with the focus on movies, the beach, etc. rather than the mending of a broken relationship that she apparently regretted.

    The details about her past loves and betrayal by her best friend really didn’t add to the story and gave readers more characters and names to deal with which was distracting from what I considered to be the primary premise of the story – Regret, reconciliation, redemption, reuniting and relationship with a person she loved dearly. (Although she almost waited too late to do this.)

    Would she have reconciled with her brother if she hadn’t been dying? Did he really mean that much to her? You could have done so much more with this story, IMHO. I would love for you to give it another go and show more of the intricacies of repairing a relationship with the focus on Alice and her brother.

    Adi

    Reply
  • September 14, 2019 at 8:04 am
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    One Week To Live Story Prompt: Meaning

    Black and white. Minutes in monochrome. Each second becomes a precious jewel or a smile from someone who used to only frown. It all becomes so black and white for me. Live or die, for me. As if I have much of a choice. I pretend I do, but just for a few minutes. I pretend I have a week of relaxation before heading back to college. Pretend I have the rest of my life to debate Iago as a caricature or federalism in the United States. Pretend I have months to get to grips with upselling, offering a wan smile to my boss while serving hot plates in the pub. I will be cold soon. Colder than the leftover pizza I used to gorge on a Friday night. I only have one Friday night left. People ask, are you alright? But I don’t hear them. Their voices are muffled, mouths covered in clingfilm. Their words are not for me. So long as their wonderful pocket of the universe is safe, their reassurances, their condolences, are nothing more than rehearsed. I didn’t have time to practice. My sister pokes her head round the door, jovial grin despite the tears in her eyes. They intensify when she sees me, sitting on the floor. An opened copy of Death of A Salesman sits beside my outstretched hand. Perhaps I should write a sequel. Death of A Student has a nice ring to it, I suppose. Reality swallows me. The itch of the hospital gown, the beeping of the scan. The words, ‘cancer’ and ‘you’. Two words I’d never expected to hear spoken together.
    “You okay? Do you want a tissue?” Oh, little sister. How I’ve failed you. I don’t answer, just wipe my eyes on my sleeve. On my heart. I should never have worn it there. Now it is frayed. Now it is broken. Not many teenagers can say they broke their own hearts.
    “Dad said you shouldn’t stay in here. He asked to me to tell you we’re going out today. A place of your choice,” she is saying. The offer drifts over me. An acid rain-cloud. Closure for them, not for me. I wanted to have no regrets; yet my biggest one is living. Living like I did. Which wasn’t really living at all. What was the point? Of the A-Levels, the countless hours spent revising behind a desk, if this is all my life comes to? I wanted to be somebody and now I will just be some body. A nameless nothing.
    “Come on, Sis. Dad says it isn’t good for you if you stay inside your own head forever,” she tells me. My own head. I snort. Daddy dearest didn’t complain when I won those college accolades, did he? Didn’t complain when I turned down my friends invitation to a party just to stay hunched over a law textbook. My sister is about to leave, to shut the door on me. On us. A relationship shattered like the clay pot I’d dropped in high school. A terminal klutz. I look up. The tears are drying. Her or me? I’m not sure.
    “I don’t want to go out,” I whisper. She leans closer, eyes raw and red. Who knew I could hurt her so deeply without moving an inch?
    “You can’t stay in here. Please”. Her voice cracks. “Please, come with us. Come out, stay with me”. I want to stay with you, I almost blurt. It’s the cancer that won’t let me. Like the principle inviting us to work at college over Easter. The Easter I was supposed to be going on holiday to Greece. My sister doesn’t shut the door on her way out and I’m left, surrounded by a carcass of now useless books, study guides and revision posters. I’m about to straighten them into separate piles: alphabetical, chronological, chorological, when I stop. Grab the nearest copy of a Criminal Defences booklet and poise my fingers at the seams. Nearly rip it in half. Stop. Breathe. Let a smile work its way through the tears.
    “Rosie!” The door gapes and she’s here. As if she never managed to leave. Fresh tears on her face. Eyes inflamed. I hurt her, that’s what I thought. Until now. I’d been hurting myself for much longer. Staying late when I could have come home early, spent movies night shovelling popcorn down my throat. I should have laughed with her more, loved her more. Loved myself more, too. I grin at her, a savage grin only reserved for the most mischievous of antagonists I’d read about over the years. I had a week to make up for the lost time. The trouble-making I’d never endorsed. The tables I’d never over-turned. The boats I had never rocked. The accusations to which I’d never shouted back. Or defended myself. Well, part of me is glad I’d spent all that time reading and studying. Because now I have over a decade’s worth of inspiration. Tucked inside my head. Rosie crouches down, reaches out to me. We collide in a tangled mess of hair-braids. For once, I’m glad time is relative because the hug lasts forever. When we break apart, I hand her my notes. My textbooks. The library books for college I have no plan of returning.
    “Rosie,” I smile. “I have an idea”. At first, she tells me I’m crazy. I tell her I’m dying so we laugh until we cry and cry until we can’t stop. But she does as I ask. They all do. Minutes pass and we’ve congregated in the living room. Rosie, Dad and I. And Cancer too. Almost a living, breathing being beside me. A sea of green cushions, pink flowers on a table. Dinner plates stacked crookedly on the dirtied carpet. And my revision, my work, the things I’d once wrongly held so dear is burning in a fire. And we’re roasting marshmallows over its remains.

    After all, you cannot revise for death.

    Reply
    • September 14, 2019 at 2:46 pm
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      Yvette,

      Wonderful, heartfelt, unaffected, deeply moving, realistic and satisfying answer to the prompt. How to come to grips with one’s own death in a week. Lovely and inspiring writing.

      Reply
    • September 14, 2019 at 7:13 pm
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      Yvette,
      What a powerful essay of emotions. I loved the play of words describing the tangle of thoughts, emotions and feelings. Time wasted, a regret many of us have had over the years. Very well done!

      Reply
    • September 16, 2019 at 6:22 pm
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      Very intense stuff, Yvette. The tension between the family’s need (selfish, according to the narrator – I’m not so sure) to show love, and the narrator’s unwillingness to oblige (initially) is very poignant. I really like how her thinking is non-linear – it’s an avalanche of thoughts and emotions that she manages, finally, to marshal into a very satisfying (for her and us) act. This lovely line right at the beginning struck me with its simple truth: “Each second becomes a precious jewel.” (If we could think like that anyway? Even having more time than your narrator.) I’m in doubt about whether it was a good idea to name the disease, or just call it ‘the disease’. But that’s a nit-pick. A fine story.

      Reply
      • September 17, 2019 at 1:44 am
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        Good story. Poignant ending …

        Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 8:49 pm
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      Love your monologue Yvette. It felt a bit heavy on the eyes for me but it is great to read and enjoy.
      You’ve done a great job of it.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 9:13 am
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      A story that triggers emotions. She reminds me to do more of the things I love to do, so I don’t have to regret so much later.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 10:01 am
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      Love this line: Their voices are muffled, mouths covered in clingfilm. I did notice a typo with the word ‘principle’ because spell check didn’t catch it. It should have been ‘principal’ when relating to a college authority. I love the rapid flow of your thoughts: A sea of green cushions, pink flowers on a table. Dinner plates stacked crookedly on the dirtied carpet. Good, concise and to the point, painting a picture easy to see without getting over melodramatic. Good job, and good story.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:30 pm
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      You really get inside the head of the main character and give us the stream of her thoughts. I want to see her go out and live a ruckus life if even for just one week.

      Reply
  • September 14, 2019 at 2:26 pm
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    Cardinal Point. (The Birdwatcher.)
    Word count – 1182.
    9/13/19 by Ken Cartisano

    It was my own fault. I leaned over a sheer outcropping to get a glimpse of a bird that I’ve already seen hundreds times. I put all of my weight on a rotten limb, jutting from a tree next to the ledge, it snapped, and over I went. I didn’t scream or cry out, mind you. I just fell, hit a rocky ledge and crumpled. I don’t think I was unconscious for very long.

    When I came to, I was amazed, not to mention surprised, to find myself alive, lying on my back, looking up. It must have been a 60 foot drop. The tree was tall and straight, over a hundred feet tall. I didn’t hurt my head too badly I guessed, due to the knapsack I’m still wearing. It contains a few useless items, like a sweater, and the notepad and pencil I’m writing with.

    When I worked up the courage to push myself up on my elbows and assess my injuries, I could see that I was in bad shape. One leg was broken in several places, the other was probably fractured, but the real damage was in my hip. It was a big mistake, looking at those legs, because that’s when the pain hit me and I passed out again.

    When I came to, it was dark. I was staring up at a night sky filled with a dazzling array of twinkling stars. My fear of the unknown was offset by a sense of wonder at the grandeur and the infinite distances that lay before and above me.

    ‘Stupid bird,’ I thought. ‘Stupid me.’

    The pain had subsided to a dull, but large and persistent throbbing. Alive and conscious, with all of creation staring down at me, I could hardly just lay there, but it felt like my legs had swelled to the size of the earth, and to try to move something so large would be foolish, but I decided to try anyway.

    What I soon realized was that to move one side of my body was agonizing, and moving the other side was excruciating. Not much of a choice. But excruciating was worse because I passed out again and didn’t wake up until just before dawn.

    ***

    That’s when I began to take notes, in the pre-dawn twilight, to provide an account of what had already happened. And what will happen.

    If you’re reading this—I probably died. And this will be a record of my death, such as it is. Thoughts and observations scribbled in a notebook half-full of poorly drawn birds done with a number two pencil. What was I thinking, trying to capture the beauty of a bird with a lead pencil? One can hardly do them justice with a telephoto lens. The real beauty of a bird is in its song anyway… and you can’t draw that, or touch it, or photograph it. What a fool I am, chasing and drawing birds with a pencil.

    As if the universe chose to reward me for that simple revelation, the sun inched over the horizon and bathed the rocks in a glow of golden light, as a solitary bird burst forth with song.

    But not for long. Soon other birds joined in, with other songs, along with some crickets, a cicada, and an unknown bug or two that thrummed: All celebrating the dawn of a new day, a chorus of life all around me.

    Which gives me time to think. About my predicament. If you’re wondering why I died, well, I guess you might say I’d succumbed to my injuries, but really, it must be chalked up to dehydration. I only have one small bottle of water, about a cup’s worth.

    I won’t last more than seven days at best.

    ***

    Sorry, I had to stop and think about that for awhile. A full day, at least. I had just delivered to myself a fairly grim prognosis. Seven days to live, in the middle of nowhere, unable to move. Let’s just hope the pencil holds out. (At least I haven’t lost my sense of humor yet.) I feel a bout of pain coming on. I should take a break for a while until it passes. (That cup of water didn’t last a day, by the way.)

    ***

    I’m back. I have company.

    A small fox arrived, curious and agile. I watched him make his way down the cliff face, from rock to boulder; to jutting tree stump; to crevice. He was wary of me, of course, and I could see the internal conflict between caution and curiosity so plainly, I wondered if I was imagining it. The fox was so obviously wrestling with its options, I thought, ‘Hell, he shows more intelligence than—well, me, and a lot of people I’ve met.’ If not intelligence, then at least awareness: An appreciation of its environment and surroundings.

    We were keenly aware of each other. I use past tense because he’s gone. He moved on. Rather abruptly. He knew the panther was coming long before I did. And that’s who sits beside me now, as I write this: A rugged looking, beautiful, green-eyed panther.

    I thought he was going to end my misery, but he’s just lying there, calmly licking the backs of his paws, or staring forlornly into the distance. He’s a mournful, solitary cat, and he doesn’t look at me. He reminds me that I have no one waiting for me, no one who’ll miss me when I don’t return, like him, and this is why I’ve wasted no words on regrets of that nature, but… I feel honored by the panther’s vigil, or patience.

    ***

    I don’t know what day it is. When I woke to another beautiful golden sunrise, the panther was gone, and I cried.

    I am offered a spider as solace. His two hairy legs appear first, just over the edge of a rock. After a minute, he leaps up into view. He’s all black, with a white band on his aft quarter. I dub him Michael Jackson. He’s a real showman, a master of suspense. Spiders are mute you know. Many creatures in nature make sounds, but not the spider. But they’re quick thinking and very industrious. With most spiders, it’s all about the web. ‘Where can I put my web?’

    That’s when the tree says, ‘Up here.’

    And the spider hears him as well. He rears back and looks up at the tree, then whirls around and looks at me as if to say, “Did you hear that too?”

    I’m too weak to do anything but nod…
    and transcribe the event.

    The spider waves and heads off toward the tree and then the panther returns. He looks like he has bad news. Like, “I’m getting hungry.”

    ‘I’m sure you are,’ I think. I don’t say it out loud, but he hears me anyway and sits down. He’ll wait. It won’t be long.

    I love birds. So does the cat.

    “Me too,” the tree says, “Let’s contemplate them together.”

    I’m thinking, ‘Why not? I’ve got…

    nothing better…

    to do

    Reply
    • September 16, 2019 at 4:57 pm
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      Loved it Ken C. Excellent world making with Nature’s creatures. That’s not a bad way to spend the last seven days in this world only if I were as care free as you, making friends with a panther and spiders. Your descriptions are grand …’leg swelled like the size of earth.’. Nice read.

      Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 6:53 am
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      “Alive and conscious, with all of creation staring down at me” – my fave line (among many other worthy contestants for that title in this story.

      Such a personal tragedy to fall that way, yet such a beautiful revelation of the wonders of nature thanks to that very same fall. The closeness to nature gets, well, a bit too close at the end… But we’re also part of that big Circle of Life, after all, aren’t we? Whether we like to think of it or not.

      I once wrote a similar piece with a badly injured soldier dying slowly of his wounds while lying on his back in the fields of death right after the Battle of Lepanto, but the reflections were more on the futility of war and man’s greed than on nature as such. Although a wolf finally takes the man away, in my story, very much like your panther in yours. But not before an eagle had already denied him the last thing he had left – looking at the blue sky and wondering – by working on his eyes.

      I very much like your tapering ending, reflecting his nearing demise in the physical appearance of the text itself – sculpture in words.

      Perhaps more widespread use of the present tense throughout the story would induce in it a greater sense of immediacy, especially where pain and fear are involved. He sometimes seems to me a bit too cool for the circumstances. Maybe that’s what happens when there is nothing left to lose except the misery… I don’t know, never been in that extreme situation (thankfully!).

      Ken

      Reply
      • September 17, 2019 at 5:47 pm
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        Thanks Ken M.

        Your comments are, as usual, very insightful. I did wrestle with the tense in this story, moving from past to present, but starting and sticking with present tense would add some tension, also, I agree that the character does indeed seem too calm and cool, it would be natural to experience some episodes of anxiety. He”s seems too accepting of his fate, (which, he must come to terms with, lets face it) but he doesn’t seem to struggle with it.

        Reply
        • September 18, 2019 at 4:39 am
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          Hi Ken C.

          In striving to be useful in my previous comment, I may’ve not mentioned the positive thing that I very much felt the pulse of your story throughout, which in turn made it a very memorable read to me. I was with your guy at all times, hoping against hope (unlike him, perhaps) as I read on, and could *myself* feel the shivers when each successive animal got too close, the relief when the panther left, the indignation when it returned… It’s a very effective piece of writing at that level.

          Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 5:53 pm
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      This is a brilliant story, Ken. There’s so much about it that I love: the absence of a pre-amble, plunging (being the operative word) us into the story; the stupidity of the accident; the slipping in and out of consciousness; the interaction with the natural world; the gentle derangement towards the end, suggested by the narrator’s imaginings; the inevitability of his/her demise, but the philosophical acceptance of it; the lovely, lovely ending. Bravo!

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 11:10 am
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        Philip,
        Thank you. Your summary is brilliant, your compliments, priceless.

        Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 3:32 am
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      Great story, Ken. Enjoyed reading it
      An unfortunate fall, grounding you into facing your end of life.
      You took the situation calmly, wit stoic acceptance like a man as people say. I would be screaming for help, wetting my pants with fear if I were in your shoes, what with the encounter with the spider and the panther.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 9:37 am
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      I really like this story. For me, it’s a story of one who is at home in nature. This birdwatcher feels secure in a situation that would terrify most of us. And he has the serenity to accept the things he can’t change. I think we all try that again and again, but almost nobody succeeds in accepting his fate in the presence of a panther. A utopia? Yes, for me it is.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 10:07 am
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      Well written and well thought out. Just have to figure out where to put you in the voting column. At the top? It’s got all the earmarks of a great story … well written, descriptive, flows well, good solid ‘making you think’ ending, so what’s not to like? Nothing, that’s what. Good story, Ken. You will make my final decision very difficult.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:41 pm
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      I love the way you describe the beauty of his surroundings. He obviously is hallucinating by the end, but I still like the conversations he has with the animals and the trees. Aside from the pain, it seems like a nice way to go…

      Reply
    • September 20, 2019 at 9:51 am
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      Genius writer! Enjoyed this thoroughly.

      What a great company of authors I happened to chance upon!
      Whose initial idea was this? 👏🏽👏🏽

      Reply
      • September 20, 2019 at 3:39 pm
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        I found a thread by a fellow author from England on Writer’s Hangout in 2012 and over several months of discussing the various aspects of writing on the thread, we started throwing out ideas like write a complete story in 12 lines, write the first page of your next novel and so on.

        It eventually morphed into writing a story in a fortnight with prompts and then voting mostly amongst ourselves, although true interested readers are welcome. Writers like Ken C., Phil, Ilana, Alice, Carrie, Chitra, Adi, and other talents joined us. It was one of the most popular sites on Writer’s Hangout.

        After a year or so, the fellow in England asked me to take the reins, which I did for a few years, then the two awesome ladies, Alice and Carrie, took over the reins as I bowed out due to other commitments. They have done a superb job. I finally retired and moved two years ago and started writing again, so I came back on the site. I am proud and as pleased as punch, the way it turned out.

        Since then other gifted writers joined us and we now enjoy several superb short stories every two weeks, and help each other hone our talents.

        Reply
  • September 14, 2019 at 6:26 pm
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    Brilliant. I was looking forward to your take on this prompt Ken. You did not disappoint. I guess the panther finally had breakfast…

    Reply
  • September 14, 2019 at 7:19 pm
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    Ken, you never disappoint your readers. Love this story, as sad as it is, with the fading consciousness and interactions with the animals. This is wonderful. Adi

    Reply
  • September 15, 2019 at 12:22 pm
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    Hi, Neha. I can’t add much to Ilana and Adi’s comments. I like the choice made to spend the precious time with family, instead of what would be more frivolous pleasure. I can believe that the narrator would seek out her brother – you establish that he is the only close person left for her. I like that they spend the time doing relatively mundane things, but as Adi says, you might have had some dialogue to show what they have to say to each other during this intense time.

    I admire your desire to make descriptions as vivid as possible, but maybe they’re a little ‘over-the-top’ at times (I might even have commented on this last time) and sometimes don’t work (I don’t think): “their clairvoyant chant”, “water of alleviation”, “carpets shimmered with pride”, “my fate of doom”…

    A nice, positive ending to a warm story.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2019 at 3:29 am
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    The Offer.

    The café I was sitting in was a hippie affair: the customers, their children, grandchildren and anyone who liked to remember their hippie days. The furniture was ancient, worn and shaky. The room smelled like patchouli. Men and women wore cotton clothing that looked “Indian,” “Medieval,” or “Retro Woodstock.” I sat at the table by the window and struggled with my short story. Most of the time I watched the hustle and bustle and hoped that I would see something I could turn into a plot idea.

    The man stood at the entrance, a tall, gaunt man in a black suit with a white shirt and dark tie. He looked a little shy. His face was quite red – maybe sunburn, or one of those little-known skin diseases. He looked like a coffin-bearer who wanted to get a whisky here to fortify himself for the next funeral.

    Everyone looked at him. I too stared in his direction. In this environment he looked like an alien. An idea, I thought, this man must be the inspiration for an idea. But my mind was as blank as the page in front of me.

    Then the man came to my table after grabbing a muffin and a mug of coffee at the counter. He looked at me as if he knew me from somewhere.

    “May I sit here, please?”

    I was about to decline when he carefully placed the worn coffee mug and the plate with the muffin on the table. He said:

    “I could help you. I want to make you an offer you can’t refuse. ”

    I looked at him? Was that a joke or something?

    “An offer? Do you want to sell me an idea for a short story?”

    He straightened, like a salesman trying to be convincing.

    “I know the prompt you’re working on. You’re supposed to write a story about someone who has only seven days left to live, but will have all his wishes fulfilled. ”

    “And you want to help me with this? Are you a writer? ”

    “No, I’m not. But I can give you the experience to write about. If you accept my offer, you can spend seven days experiencing everything you want. For a more than reasonable price. Because all I want from you after that is your soul.”

    “You want my soul? Are you the devil? ”

    “That’s one of my many names. However, people have completely wrong ideas about me. They love their enemy images, and yes, I’m one of their favorites. ”

    “What exactly does it mean, that you want my soul? Do I have to go to hell then? ”

    “Hell is a lot more enjoyable than you think. We have free WIFI everywhere, there are many bars, live music and tattoo studios. Unfortunately not many churches and temples, but as far as I know you, you will hardly miss them.”

    “And how long do I have to go to hell for then? Eternity? Will I be punished there for my sins? ”

    “No, you won’t be punished. We designed hell as a place for people who like to sin. Our opponents invented all the stuff about suffering. They‘re very afraid of our popularity. ”

    “And for seven days you’ll fulfill all my wishes?”

    “Yes of course! Do you want to sleep with a famous actress? Nothing easier than that.”

    “And what happens if you can’t fulfill one of my wishes?”

    “That has never happened before. But if that’s really the case, we’ll withdraw from the contract. ”

    That sounded interesting. I stared at my notebook on the table. There was no idea in sight. But this man promised me the adventure of my life. With a certain risk of course, but those are the best adventures. And seven days seemed a long time to me then.

    So I agreed. He got a contract from his briefcase, a small knife and an old-fashioned penholder. Then he made a small cut in my forearm, asked me to dip the pen in the blood and sign the contract.

    The next few days I went around the globe in my own yacht, met many famous people, circled the earth in my spacecraft and enjoyed every luxury imaginable. Have you ever bathed in champagne? I highly recommend it. It’s a feeling that can’t be compared with any other.

    But the longer I indulged in luxury, the more dissatisfied I became. For this nonsense, I had sold my soul. How premature! So now I asked myself what I really wanted from life.

    Then I called for the devil. He was no longer shy at all, his grin was that of a winner. So I asked him to write a short story for me about having only seven more days to live and getting all your wishes fulfilled. The devil made a long face. Obviously, he didn’t have brilliant ideas all the time. That made me smile. I enjoyed watching him chew on a pencil.

    “And when you’re done with the story, I want a novel on the same subject. At least one thousand pages. It should be so exciting that readers can’t put it down, and at the same time it should meet the demands of literary critics.”

    The devil nodded. He looked confused. I saw him trying to answer, then he sighed and stared at the the blank sheet of paper in front of him.

    I kept on.

    “The novel should be the first in a long series. And the series should be for making into movies, like Harry Potter, but there will have to be more than 30 films, and most of them will be awarded Oscars … ”

    Now the devil could no longer keep silent.

    “Time is running out for such a wish. How can I conjure up an idea, that doesn’t just work for a novel, but a whole series of novels? That’s almost impossible! What if you meet a famous actress instead? Most men want that. ”

    Now I had to grin.

    “No thanks! But I would like the Nobel Prize for literature for my novel series! In fact, I want the Nobel Prize at least five times. I think then I will meet enough famous actresses anyway. Do you agree?”

    The devil still hadn’t written anything on the sheet of paper. He looked at me angrily.

    “You know what! Keep your stupid soul! I’m not going to sit down and write a whole series of novels just because of one damned soul! I terminate the contract with immediate effect. Goodbye!”

    Then there was a bang and the man disappeared. A smell of sulphur lingered in the air.

    Reply
    • September 16, 2019 at 6:07 pm
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      Very nice Berliner Max. You grabbed my attention until the end and a nice ending. I was only thinking that if you started with the man entering the hall it would work better as a short story. Did we really need to know if the cafe smelled Indian or Middle Eastern..etc? I’d rather like to see how confused the protagonist is getting with his problem solving and finally the brilliant way you solved it for him.

      But I love the way you write, your style I mean. I read your earlier works too. 👏

      Reply
      • September 18, 2019 at 3:21 am
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        Funny, original and well crafted story, Berliner. I like the pact you made with the devil and outwitted him in the end. You threw out the belief that the devil is powerful. You gave him a task that he couldn’t perform.
        Enjoyed that.
        The story is the winner from me.

        Reply
      • September 18, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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        You have a point there, but sometimes I like to draw pictures in my writing. Even unnecessary pictures. 🙂

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      • September 18, 2019 at 12:23 pm
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        You have a point there, but sometimes I like to draw pictures in my writing. Even unnecessary pictures. 🙂

        Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 6:09 pm
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      A very Jürgenlike story … er … Jürgen – there’s always something off-the-wall about the things you write, and the way you go about it … you’ve got yourself a style, there! The plot of this is ingenious – posing a challenge to the devil that he finds it impossible to complete (you’re making a point, I think, about how tortuous the writing process can be sometimes?). It kind of reminds me of Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’ – only it’s Death not the Devil in that. Maybe you could have resisted the temptation to call the stranger ‘the devil’ throughout, so that we imagine that’s who it is but it’s only confirmed with your last line about the sulphur (?) Good stuff again.

      Reply
      • September 18, 2019 at 9:43 am
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        “jürgenlike” that’s a nice compliment. I’m always trying to find a voice of my own. (And you found the little dots above the u on your keyboard. Great)

        Reply
          • September 18, 2019 at 11:58 am
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            Ü is a German letter. It’s in my name Jürgen. So usually I spell it Juergen here. But Phil found the Ü.:)

    • September 18, 2019 at 10:29 am
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      I know you spell out the contact requirements to fulfill any wishes and the devil will have to withdraw if he can’t fulfill one:
      (“And for seven days you’ll fulfill all my wishes?”

      “Yes of course! Do you want to sleep with a famous actress? Nothing easier than that.”

      “And what happens if you can’t fulfill one of my wishes?”

      “That has never happened before. But if that’s really the case, we’ll withdraw from the contract.”)

      but you also specify he has to have wishes than can be filled in seven days:

      (If you accept my offer, you can spend seven days experiencing everything you want.)

      Then you have the protagonist asking for things that take longer than seven days.

      Maybe, you just have to have the protagonist say, “So you have to fulfill anything I wish for in seven days?”, leaving things a little ambiguous – as all contracts are if you read them carefully – then you are covered. I had a conflict with that portion of your story, but otherwise loved it as another well written story getting one over on The Devil. The other conflict I had was why The Devil withdrew because, after all, The Devil has all eternity to wait this guy out.

      All in all , Max Berliner, I enjoyed the read and the story. Always like to give The Devil a little bit of his own medicine.

      I also loved how you make the thought of Hell a little bit more accepting than the fire and brimstone almost all religions portray. Great lines – “No, you won’t be punished. We designed hell as a place for people who like to sin. Our opponents invented all the stuff about suffering. They‘re very afraid of our popularity. ”

      If people actually thought that way, Hell might be more desirable than Heaven, perish the thought! Good job my friend.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:46 pm
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      I love how the devil got writer’s block trying to write for this prompt. I feel like you’re drawing from personal experience *snicker* Seriously though, you seem to be able to write through any blocks you have about the prompts and turn them into your best stories! Like that one with the mermaid and the burger. The devil’s frustration was so funny, good job yet again.

      Reply
    • September 19, 2019 at 4:59 am
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      Ah you outwitted the very Devil with writer’s block! And in so doing unblocked yours.

      Crafty craft this craft of ours craftier than the Crafty One…

      Well done, J—here comes the umlaut!!!—ürgen! No, I don’t have it on my keyboard. Those were just fly specks. I just nicked it (copy/paste) from Phil’s comment. Talk of crafty!

      Really, good job Master of WTF-Is-He-Gonna-Come-Up-With-This-Time!!

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 6:54 am
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        Good story Ju

        Reply
  • September 16, 2019 at 5:46 am
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    AN ORANGE CAT IN ROME
    by Ken Miles
    1,200 words (excluding title and this line)

    A week’s just too short. Especially when that’s all I’ve got left.

    Tightness grips my throat, like someone’s choking me. Dr.Gottmann places his hand on my shoulder until I feel its warmth. Doctors don’t usually do that. They’re austere. Scientists. Cold. When they do that, things must be bad.

    My only symptom’s this tingling behind my ears. Otherwise, perfectly fine, energy to burn. I still sport my teenage mullet, greying as it may now be. I’m not prepared to die. Which makes it all the more absurd. Even cruel. I stare into the void while Dr.Gottmann fills out endless papers for more therapy for each day left.

    I take a long, hard look at my life. All the wasted years, all the could’ve-beens. Nothing salvageable. Nothing of worth. And this it. Last station. All change please.

    I’m about to spit at my face in the pocket mirror, when she comes back to mind.

    Rosalba.

    If nothing else, there was her. I’ll go find her again! For one last time. Whatever it takes. Fuck therapy. Fuck everything else.

    I met Rosalba three decades ago, as an exchange-student at her college in Rome. It was love at first sight, second sight, hundredth sight, my semester-long Dolce Vita. We’d meet again, we said, we’d never forget each other. She dreamed of coming over to California. I also dreamed she would.

    Then we lost touch. Our correspondence fizzled out. She wasn’t getting my letters. Someone at the college was taking them away before she’d see them. I’d get hers asking why I’d stopped writing. But I hadn’t! It ended that way. My most beautiful page, turned. I was seventeen. A downhill spiral followed. The Summer of Love. LSD. A man walked on the moon. More LSD. I walked on other galaxies. Cheap sex. Threesomes, foursomes. Nothing sums.

    “Shoo! Shoo!”

    This cat’s been following me since I got off the taxi. Of all people in Rome, she took a liking to me!

    “Already told you – got no food!” Do my shoes smell of fish?

    I give up. She’s pleased when I stroke her, purrs, and looks into my eyes. Her orange fur is soft and clean. A lost pet, certainly, not a stray.

    I’ve no clue where to start looking. I’ve no address. Rosalba never took me home to her Catholic parents. It would’ve been a scandal back then. Right under the Pope’s nose! Hopefully the college keeps trace of its alumni. Maybe Rosalba isn’t even in Rome anymore. My heart races. I’ve no time to waste. She must be married by now. She won’t want to see me! My blood freezes. I really don’t know what I’m doing.

    But the cat knows. She walks steadily ahead of me, I follow. Traffic-choked streets suddenly give way to that magnificent traffic-island that is the Colosseum.

    “So you’re gonna be my tour-guide!” I tell my newly-found feline friend. But I didn’t come to Rome to see the sights.

    Flashing memories of Rosalba’s first showing me the Colosseum juggle for space in my head. Now I’m here with a cat! We walk on. I get fleeting temptations to suddenly change course and lose her. But I’m somehow getting to like this cat.

    Next on Kitty’s Tour is the Pantheon. Rosalba and I once gazed at the evening sky through the famous hole in the dome.

    “Thousands of years ago, lovers like us looked at those same two stars up there, felt the same thing,” she said, face glowing in her usual dreamy glimmer. I loved the dreamer in her most of all.

    In Rome, some things truly never change. Thirty years on, the cobbled Piazzas are exactly as I remember them. The same restaurants, same wobbly tables, same smell of pizza. I’m from the land-of-the-movies, of twenty-four-frames-per-second. Where life flickers by rapidly. Not so in the Eternal City. Only my Rosalba’s gone.

    The cat mingles with the open-air patrons of L’Antica Pizzeria, packed as always. Locals and tourists alike abandon their pizzas to stroke her. She leaps onto a table where a father and three kids, two girls and a boy, are eating, nearly toppling the father’s glass of wine. Eight hands rush to pat her.

    It all comes back to me! Rosalba and I at that same spot! Rosalba stood on that very table for a ‘magic-photo’ with my Polaroid. She was stunning, in a coral A-line dress, against a backdrop of purple bougainvilleas clinging jealousy to the ancient stone-wall. I expected the waiter to tell us off. Instead he instructed me to also get on the table for a photo with her. He told us to kiss. We’d just met, hadn’t yet kissed.

    “Solo per la foto!” he insisted, catching a hint of our embarrassment.

    We kissed. And then again. The waiter kept snapping until he used up my whole roll.

    “Your gatta?” the father asks me.

    “No!” At once, I repent: “Yes, yes, mine…”

    “È bellissima!”

    The cat jumps off back to me, to continue with our excursion.

    I recognize the two-lion fountain I used to pass by everyday, near the college. But my hopes are immediately dashed. The Fascist-built edifice is boarded up, decrepit.

    We trudge blindly through dark narrow streets, cat leading, man following. Sadness engulfs me. I’m ending my life following a cat!

    Old Rome viciously and without warning metamorphoses into an ugly avenue lined by sun-baked social-housing apartments with flaking facades. Something agitates the cat. Her tail twists and curls, her back humps.

    “What’s wrong, kitty?”

    A speeding car breaks the silence, screeching on the cracked asphalt. The cat crosses in panic, narrowly missing the car’s front wheels. But not the back ones. I squeal. The driver gets out, cursing, barely sparing the flattened cat a glimpse as he inspects his Alfa-Romeo with great concern.

    A tuft from the dead cat’s fur gets blown over to me, landing on my cheek. I press it against my face. It smells nice. ‘Extasi’ by Silvestri. Rosalba’s perfume! I’d bought it for her with my hard-earned student-cash stacking boxes at Walmart.

    A school-girl, nine years old or so, appears as if out of nowhere.

    “That’s exactly where mum died,” she tells me.

    I’m still trembling.

    “Dad ran over her. An accident, he says, the judge said so too,” she continues in fast, successive gulps.

    “Dad made mum’s nose bleed that day. She said she was going to the police-station. He chased her by car, that’s when it happened.” Her tangerine hair reminded me of Rosalba’s.

    She digs inside her schoolbag.

    “This is my mum.” She shows me the Polaroid of Rosalba on the wobbly table.

    “Are you the man-from-the-moon?” the girl asks. “Mum was once in love with a man from a place as far as the moon. You’re like him, because he had long hair too. Only his was gold not silver.”

    “If she was in love with the man-from-the-moon,” I speak through tears, “then why did she marry your father?”

    “Because the man went back to the moon!” she giggles. “Bye now, dad doesn’t like me talking to strangers.”

    I clench the tuft of fur. Rosalba’s waiting for me. I’m ready to go now.

    Only thing is, a week’s just too long.

    Reply
    • September 16, 2019 at 6:21 pm
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      Nice story, Ken M.You took me to Italy. I could see those places vividly and the photo shooting waiter. Interesting twist at the end too. Too short could be too long!

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 5:08 am
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        Thank you Dita, I’m pleased you enjoyed it – and that it transported you to the beautiful city of Rome.

        Yes, too short may end up becoming too long, if what’s coming is better than what we already have. I wanted to give the story a happy ending in spite of a tragedy after another – the diagnosis, the cat’s demise, the news of Rosalba’s death. I’d like to think that things don’t happen for no reason at all, and that ultimately there is something great awaiting us that everything that happens is directed to…

        Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 6:28 pm
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      A lovely story, Ken. The narrator’s obsession with a past love … guilty! (I’m reading ‘The Museum of Innocence’ – have you read it? Also about obsessing over a lost love. I got the same vibe from your story.) A good choice of venue – the Eternal City, where romance lingers on every corner, making the tour of many years ago doubly memorable for the narrator and for us. And the cat as a plot device is very clever. A couple of observations: I’m not sure if the opening couple of paragraphs are really necessary – I don’t think they add anything substantial. And I’m not sure the cat needs to die (‘Save The Cat!’) – it can almost die, or at least be half-dead, and that’s when the narrator gets a whiff of the perfume as he tries to tend to it. Really enjoyed this, though.

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 5:28 am
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        It gives me a great deal of satisfaction that you really enjoyed my story, Phil. You’re a master of the craft in here, so your words are certainly meaningful to me. Plus, I owed you one – for having hurt your brain a few weeks back with that time-travel folly piece!

        I guess you’re right about the possibility of chopping off the first two paragraphs after the opening line. Except, perhaps the bit about the mullet, which does tie up with the ending. And I wanted to point out that the narrator still feels youthful and unprepared to die. But the rant about doctors and all, indeed, I could have done without that.

        And the poor cat! In my first draft I still had her die, but she got “a proper burial” from the narrator. I was even thinking of the same grave where Rosalba herself was buried. Then I removed that because of the word count but also because it detracted attention at a rather delicate moment of the story. And I didn’t want to turn this romantic story into some gothic cemetery piece!

        As much as I grew to love that orange cat and it’s sad to see her go, I think the story requires that grim end for the feline character. I think the cat is actually Rosalba, and she’s re-enacting not only her passionate dates with the narrator along the various venues in Rome, but also wants to show him how she died. She is orange, very much like Rosalba’s (and her daughter’s) “tangerine hair” and “coral dress” in the Polaroid scene. She wears Extasi, Rosalba’s perfume. Although it may be the narrator’s imagination that leads him to smell that whif, we never know. I hope not. The thing is, if the cat remains alive, then Rosalba won’t be waiting for the narrator to join her in the afterlife. But, yes, sorry for killing a cat. It’s not usually in me 😉

        Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:15 am
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      Absolutely love this story!
      Perfectly set in Rome.
      Ask not of the how and the why,
      His is to do and die.

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 5:32 am
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        Your comment sounds like a poem, Marien 🙂

        I’m very pleased that you loved the story.

        Yes, Rome is the right place for it to happen. I think the very word Romantic is derived from the name Rome… (although I may be wrong).

        Indeed we should sometimes stop asking how and why and just let things happen. It may be nicer than we think!

        Thank you again for your appreciation.

        Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 4:00 am
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      A love story set in Rome Italy, the city of romance.
      I like the way you look and track back to recapture the love you lost but not forgotten in your youth. Got me thinking about my youth too and people I met along that journey.
      The idea of meeting again in another time space and form feels comforting too. It reminds me of the Indian ideology that you came back on earth in a different form.
      Enjoyed the story very much.

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 5:47 am
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        I’m glad you liked it, Chitra. And more so for having taken you back down your own memory lane, hopefully to some nice places and people.

        Yes, it’s comforting to think of the possibility of furthering our existence in another time-space reality. Something beyond those dreaded seven days! The orange cat does seem to behave as if she is Rosalba herself, quite along the lines of the Indian ideology of reincarnation, as you point out. But I left that vague enough for the readers to believe what they want.

        There is also the possibility that the narrator, who’s distressed about his impending death and very anxious to meet his teenage love again is rather susceptible to fancying and conjuring up things – like the smell of Rosalba’s perfume on the cat’s fur.

        But then things happen that seem to lead us to believe that there is indeed a grand-scheme out there. Things that are out of the narrator’s control and confused psyche, like the fact that he’s led to Rosalba’s daughter and to a re-enactment of her death.

        Hardcore skeptics can still say it could have been a mere coincidence. But I think there are some 5 million people in Rome. To actually meet one particular person by pure coincidence is highly unlikely. I don’t buy that. Something more extraordinary must have happened. As you also suspected.

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    • September 18, 2019 at 9:54 am
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      Rosalba and the man from the moon. A beautiful story of love and memory. A story that doesn’t want to be taken at face value. Rather, it describes – for me – memories and the questions that always come with a memory. What would have happened if ….

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 6:05 am
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        I’m glad you found this story both beauriful and intringuing, Jürgen. As you say, not all of it is to be taken at face value. One can read it as a plain Mills and Boonish romantic piece or look at it from a more skeptical viewpoint, just to mention too possible readings. I mention something about that in my reply to Chitra’s comment above.

        It’s a lot about memories, but also a lot about the future, and redemption. I see Rosalba and the “Man from the moon” meeting again somewhere, somehow. It’s a lot more about that actually.

        Reply
        • September 19, 2019 at 6:08 am
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          Beauriful! lol
          Did you really find it beauriful?
          I should switch on my sperr-checkel…

          Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 12:53 pm
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      I love the cat taking him on a tour through his and Rosalba’s love affair. The ending is sad, but at least they’ll finally be together.

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 6:16 am
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        Thanks Wendy. I’m pleased you enjoyed Kitty’s Tour – which happens in both space and time.

        The ending *seems* sad, but I think it’s quite positive actually. The beginning is sadder. A man in his prime is told his days are literally numbered. By the end of the story, he’s very much prepared – even eager – to go.

        Sadder things happen along the way: an adorable cat gets crushed under a car, we get to know that Rosalba also had a similar fate. But all the sad things will hopefully lead to a happy ending somewhere we don’t quite understand…

        It may all all in the narrator’s agitated and emotionally-charged mind, after all… but I hope not.

        Reply
    • September 19, 2019 at 7:51 am
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      Although I knew the cat was the key to finding Rosalba, the journey to find her was wonderful. Great last line and I have only one little quibble with your writing. I don’t think the reference to the wobbly table is necessary because how does he know it’s wobbly by looking at a photograph. Sounds good, but totally not needed. Otherwise a really good story.

      Reply
      • September 20, 2019 at 8:39 am
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        Thanks Roy – I take your words as those of a mentor. Perhaps the title gives away a little too much about the key role the cat will be having in the story. Maybe “Rosalba And The Man From The Moon” (brought up by Juergen) would be a good alternative. Still catchy, without giving away anything much too soon.

        The wobbly table, yes, certainly one can’t tell that merily from a photo. But I think this guy remembers it being wobbly from when he dined on it 30 years before, with his date. And it may be one of those things that never change in the Eternal City. I imagine he and Rosalba must have had some good laughs about the wobbliness, and, you know, those are the silly things one remembers for life as the passage of time erases most other things!

        Please do massacre my story and give me more feedback if you have time and there is anything to say. You know where to find me 🙂 Precious as gold to me! I did heed the redundancies issue you told me about the other day. I hope I’m not going overboard in the other direction, now, with too many very short machine-gun-fired sentences!

        Ken

        Reply
    • September 19, 2019 at 11:04 am
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      Ken Miles – An Orange Cat In Rome.

      This is a wonderful story Ken. A very unusual plot, so fantastic, and yet delivered with such deadpan intimate detail, that the reader believes that the incredible is possible, long before the character does. (The narration comes across as ‘dispassionate’. Maybe because it’s old passion, or because I’m a cynic, who knows? It’s not wrong, and probably not important.)

      The ending is brilliant. You’ve shown us the prompt as in a mirror, everything is reversed. Now he can’t wait till his seven days are up.

      I wonder how the ending came to you? Did it come first? And then you built the story like a ramp, to get you to the twist?

      This is excellent writing too, aside from the story, which is an achievement in itself, your writing is very clear and vivid, Ken. It has a certain, ‘I don’t know what,’ something that pulls you along in a story, the way a good tour guide would turn and engage with you often, describing points of interest while keeping you informed and moving as well.

      For some reason, this story strikes me as good, but plain and simple. But it’s really an excellent, thoughtful and sentimental story and I enjoyed it immensely. (I also have a very deep, very soft spot in my heart for orange cats.).

      Reply
      • September 20, 2019 at 9:03 am
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        Thanks Ken, it’s great to hear that the Grandmaster in here has enjoyed my story. And immensely, too. Wonderful feeling, really.

        To answer your question about the ending, no, I didn’t actually start from there and work frontwards to the beginning. I know what you mean – it happens to me sometimes: I know where I want to get and then invent a story to get me there. I had this story in mind for a while actually. I had seen a blog where someone really followed a cat as a tour of the “alternative Rome.” Brilliant idea, if you ask me! Once I also read an article about another person who followed a fish (and in the end caught it, cooked it and ate it! Well…)

        I developed the story from there and adapted it to the prompt by having the narrator having only one week to live. In my original idea, there wasn’t anything of that – just that he finds that Rosalba had died. And that the girl is actually his daughter. But I think it developed into a more dramatic and “closed” story thanks to the prompt.

        I started with the inevitable lament that seven days to live are too short for someone who is still in his prime. Then, as I walked with him till he found out about Rosalba waiting for him “on the other side”, it clicked to me that he didn’t want anything else but to get going… And the remaining days were only in his way!

        You say the story struck you as “good, but plain and simple”. I’m not sure how to interpret that. Asimov and Bradbury would say “plain and simple” is way to go. (I remember Asimov’s rant on Shakespeare – why be a stained glass when you can be clear glass? he had said; also the interview with Bradbury where he suggests we should not sleep over our stories or we’ll wake up and “intellectualize” them). So maybe it’s a good thing.

        Or you may mean, you didn’t find much depth/layering in it, which would not be a good thing (I like stories with at least a bit of layering).

        By now we’ve got the news you’re the winner of this contest! I’m glad to share the podium with you, in third place! That’s better to me than my second place, the other time, when you weren’t in the game!

        So, of to work with our detective now. I’ve got one cooking already 🙂

        Ken

        Reply
  • September 16, 2019 at 12:32 pm
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    Neha Neil
    One Week to Live (REVISED VERSION)

    TICK! TICK! TICK! The clock ticked away as I cautiously walked out of the entrance to the main building. Solemnly, I entered the car and sat down at my favourite seat near the open window, gazing out into the sky. The withering wind whistled wildly, sending the bitter gale shivering up my weak spine.

    This is me Alice Reddington. I am now thirty-two and live alone in the southern part of New York. Quietly, I watched the hummingbirds sing their clairvoyant chant as my driver turned on the radio. I had just finished work and had a call which made me suddenly overcome with despondency and despair, as I was told that my young sister (Diamond) had been diagnosed with severe blood cancer and had only been given 1 week to live!

    You ask me how she had managed to be diagnosed with such a deadly illness; well the truth is that I have no idea! One day she is seen joyfully walking back from an awesome party, the other day she starts squirming with sickness. I just don’t understand! Suddenly, I gave a spasmodic wriggle, as if a snake slithering out of its’ skin. Diamond had only been given 1 week to live the fullest! She had only been given one week to live in this exciting world of wonder!

    Hurriedly, I coaxed the driver forward, the car unevenly twirling left and right. My Diamond was going to die, and I can never bear her to leave this world without me!

    The day was Friday 3rd of June 2019, the day Diamond was to see the world for the last time. Guilt surged up my spine as I gulped with agitation. For the last few weeks I had refused to take up any calls as I has been busy dealing with the business I was currently working in (BBMQATV), and somehow, I had missed an opportunity that would never be restored again. Spending time with Diamond for the last few days!

    Diamond was a young, lively girl, that was before she had become poorly with dreadful illnesses. It wasn’t her first time becoming ill, and infact she had spent almost all her life in hospital. I had promised to visit her as much as I could, but it had been two years since then. And now I was going to lose her forever! All because of me!

    My eyes blurred up with repentance, as the car halted at the entrance to Heathrow hospital. She must be here! My heart ached with agony as it pumped faster and faster, my head fluttered with thoughts as I rushed through the winding corridors.

    “Room 84, room 84!” I muttered under my bating breath, opening every hospital door in sight. What if it was too late! What if she was gone forever! I had to find her in time!

    My eyes hurriedly lingered over the door signs, and then, the room 84. My heart pounded as fast as a leaping lion as I cautiously turned the handle to open the door. What if it was already too late?

    As soon as I cautiously opened the door and crept in, I was unwelcomed by the heart-breaking sorrow of my mother and my father, cowering over the side of the hospital bed. Quietly, I rushed by their side and sat down trying to make out on whether I had made it in time or not. Then I saw her!

    Diamond’s pale face glowed as our eyes levelled and met. She was wearing her favourite clothes, a flowery patterned t-shirt along with bright blue jeans, it must have been quite uncomfortable! Tears rolled down my pink rosy cheeks as I held her cold hand against mine. Yet she showed no face of fate and for that I respected her bravery. If I had been given 1 week to live, I would have screamed with anguish! Yet however many times I weep or sob, her steady eyes just glistened under the lustrous moon!

    As you may have guessed it was already night. Yet no matter how tired I seemed, I refused to leave her side. Diamond became restless too and pleaded to have a small rest. But what if she died the minute her eyes closed! I was determined that she would soon recover, and that everything would be alright. But what if things worsened!

    I kissed my little sisters’ forehead, before laying down beside her, nuzzling against her warm chest. Quietly, I nuzzled closer, hearing her heart thump rapidly. She had begun to swet making me shiver with apprehension. Mother and father anxiously waited at the corner of the room, hiding subtle tears rolling down their cheeks. I had to be strong. I had to show Diamond that I shall never ever forget her!

    Tearfully, I gazed into her pale blue eyes that seemed to fade and fade every minute. It was clear that she would soon leave this world, leaving us distraught. If only I had summoned up conscious to show her what I really felt about her!

    Yet as minutes past, her once golden hair turned grey, and her once glowing face of youth faded into pale wrinkles. There was not much time left until we were to say goodbye to her.

    Speechlessly I sat up, stuttering words of failure. If only it was me and not her! If only she had been given one more chance in life!

    Suddenly, the heart rate monitor started to beep, Diamond’s heart beating vigorously. Briskly, doctors and nurses from all rooms rushed in, pushing me aside from my seat. I couldn’t help but feel panic strike on all edges of my brain, a black cloud covering my thoughts.

    Mother and father just stared motionless, giving an impression of sudden depression and overwhelm. I watched too, quietly, trying to peer over the millions of shoulders hunched up against the hospital bed. What was happening to her?

    BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The heart rate monitor beated faster and faster and faster, making my spine ooze with fright. Is Diamond alright? What is going on! Fear sparked my lungs, my face turning pale.

    Then, there suddenly held a long beep, and then silence…

    The doctors and nurses stood back, their heads cowering. Diamond’s eyes suddenly flickered and then gradually closed; her whole body motionless.

    “Diamond, Diamond!” I wept, rushing to her side. No answer. She was gone! Gone for ever!

    My forlorn heart shattered in two, tears of blood gushing down my face. Sorrowfully my eyes darkened, my face blotched with remorse. Yet my tears held no fate. Diamond had left this world to me! And I need to make my little sister proud! Heartbroken I nuzzled against her cold chest once more, before the dark canvas cover was pulled over her dead body…

    Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 10:09 am
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      Your story shows how hard it is to say goodbye. There is no right way to let someone go, I think.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 4:58 pm
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      A painfully very sad story, Neha. Very descriptive. I can feel the agony to watch a life ebb away.

      Reply
  • September 16, 2019 at 12:45 pm
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    Hi, I missed you guys for the last couple of rounds. Got too busy with? umm life? Here is my story for now and I’ll rush to read what’s happening in the forum. Looking forward to reading your works. Stay well everybody. Love- Dita.


    Only The Moon

    “Just one week!”  Mr. Wiseman whispered dropping the phone on its cradle in a trembling hand. How could he break this to his wife that the C.T. Scan results are out? She has only one week to live. Mr. Wiseman’s jaws stiffened with anger. “The doctors are incompetent and the nurse- so cruel! Do you blurt news like that?” He mumbled slamming the door to rush out.

    Mrs. Wiseman hollered from the kitchen. “Where are you going? The waffles are done,” flapping the pancakes she calls waffles. 
    “Raffles?  No, we didn’t win. We never win. Didn’t I tell you?” He yelled back. 
    “Not raffles, waffles.” Mrs. Wiseman sighed.  But Mr.Wiseman had gone. The old car cranked with its typical groan to start and then swerved out. 
     
    ***
    Mr. Wiseman’s heart ached to see his wife sitting at the kitchen table all alone, her face resting on her palm, eyes gazed far away. He ambled to her from behind and rubbed her shoulders planting a soft kiss on her nape. Then gently took off the rubber band from her limp ponytail that resembles more a mouse tail. He played with her hair stretching his fingers to release the oily, fine hair. 

    Mrs. Wiseman turned her head. “What happened to you?” She murmured, puzzled at this unusual gesture of affection. He must have done something terrible she suspected. 

    Mr. Wiseman unpacked the Age Defy Desert Copper hair color from the shopping bag. “Come, honey, let’s do your hair. I know you asked for it long ago and I am sorry I forgot. But here it is now.” 

    Mrs. Wiseman stretched the creases on her forehead.”That was three weeks ago, before going to Lisa’s baby shower event. Now, who cares?”
    “Come anyway, honey. You deserve some pampering. He almost dragged her to the kitchen sink planting another kiss on her shoulder.

    Okay, fine — thought Mrs. Wiseman lowering her head over the sink. Mr.Wiseman took out the fine comb with three missing teeth from his shirt pocket and started combing his wife’s hair with a gentle motion, the few strands of hair that were left on her head. 

    He read the direction and mixed the shampoo with the copper color. It reminded him of the monoliths of Sedona, where they had first started their lives. Donna, his wife was just a young bride then, full of red ringlets. They were that vibrant copper tone, not like the field mouse shade she has now.

    Mr.Wiseman struggled to push  his palm into the plastic gloves the packet had provided. They were too small for his manly, robust fingers and after he squeezed through, his fingers felt weird—like those of a lizard.

    Mrs. Wiseman felt his touch comforting as he massaged her scalp with soothing long streaks, gently parting the strands of hair. She picked up the box to see the color but everything looked blurry. She blew a sigh remembering that the doctor had told her long ago that she needed cataract surgery. But they never had the money.

    Mr. Wiseman wrapped a brown towel around his wife securing her colored scalp with a plastic bag. He couldn’t find the Motel 6 shower cap he saved for such occassions.

    “Relax for ten minutes then go take a shower.” He announced, “I’ll take care of dinner tonight.” Mrs. Wiseman couldn’t believe her ears. What miracle happened? She wondered but didn’t want to break the spell. She nodded. 

    ***

    When Mr.Wiseman returned the sun went down. The roasted chicken with sage he took out filled their modest home with a delicious aroma. He filled two glasses with an old bottle of Gamot Rouge he found at the back of the cupboard. 

    Donna’s favorite wine. He chuckled remembering those days in Napa valley, years ago — how they used to picnic and dance. He took out the cell phone from his pocket and found a  YouTube video that played ‘The way we were’.

    Mr.Wiseman sat stretching his legs on the recliner, a cigarette in hand wondering how Donna would have liked to spend the last days of her life if she knew it?  How little does he know his wife after being married forty-seven years? He might tell correctly that she has seventeen tiny red spots on her back or where exactly the birthmark is near her belly button, but does he know what she really is like?  What her  deep wishes were in life? He puffed a smoke curling his tongue. Little ringlets  of smoke escaped teasing him, wisping in the air. 
     
    Mrs. Wiseman was astonished when she entered the room. But reacted,

    “Are you crazy?  Is it my birthday or something? Are you aware that our rent is overdue for two months? Not to mention the outstanding C.T.Scan copayment? Two hundred and sixty- nine dollars. Shucks!” 

    “Okay honey. Let’s forget those for now. We’ll deal with that later.” He said.

    “Yes, talking about C.T.Scan, I forgot to tell you…” Mrs. Wiseman stirred the spoon in the  salad dressing.

    Mr. Wiseman raised his eyebrows, “Yes?”

    “They said I have only one week left,”  dripping dressing on the salad, “of that medicine. It must be refilled. Just one more week to take it, and then no more.” Mrs. Wiseman pushed the salad bowl to her husband. 

    “Really?  Everything is fine otherwise?” He craned his neck.

    “Of course. Just remember the medicine.” She took a  sip of the wine. 

    Mr. Wiseman adjusted his earplugs. “You sure? Just the medicine — but  you’re fine, right?”

    “Ye-s!” She jerked. 

    “Thank you, thank you, Donna.”  He held her up and twirled in the air as if she were that young bride.

    “Let go.  Are you a kid? Neighbors are watching.” Mrs. Wiseman felt embarrassed. 

    “No one is watching, only the full moon,” he pointed through the window. “And you look lovely in that color, honey. Now we must work on your cataract, because you can’t see.”

    1000 word.

    #################### The End #####################

       
     
      

    Reply
    • September 16, 2019 at 4:31 pm
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      Nice to have you back Dita, we understand that life sometimes gets in the way of writing. Glad you were able to contribute this time around. 🙂

      Reply
      • September 16, 2019 at 6:24 pm
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        Thank you Alice

        Reply
      • September 16, 2019 at 6:44 pm
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        Alice, Can I change the title to ‘Only the Moon’ instead of Only One Week? Or is it too late?

        Reply
        • September 16, 2019 at 11:39 pm
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          Yes, I’ll change that now.

          Reply
          • September 17, 2019 at 1:25 am
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            Thank you Alice🙏💞

        • September 17, 2019 at 1:16 am
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          🙏Thank you

          Reply
    • September 16, 2019 at 5:11 pm
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      Good to see you here again Dita. Missed you.
      Enjoy the stories.

      I have got to catch up with everybody too.
      Just wrote my story. Will post it tomorrow after a final read.

      Reply
      • September 16, 2019 at 6:24 pm
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        Hi Chitra, how are you? Looking forward to reading your story.

        Reply
    • September 17, 2019 at 6:47 pm
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      A very touching story, Anindita. The love the couple have for each other is very well portrayed (although it’s not always like that, obviously – Mrs Wiseman notices the difference in her husband). That love shines through from the little gestures – like the washing/dying of the hair. I was very glad at the end that it was all a misunderstanding on Mr Wiseman’s part! I had to suspend disbelief a little re the misunderstanding. Firstly, I don’t think a doctor/nurse would tell Mr Wiseman about the ‘7 days to live’ – they’d tell his wife. Secondly, if that phone at the beginning is a land-line (‘cradle’), then wouldn’t it be difficult for the nurse’s words to be misunderstood? But the heart of the story remains, and that love.

      Reply
      • September 17, 2019 at 7:44 pm
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        Thank you Phil for your feedback and kind words. About the land line hearing thing- Well, when you have ear plugs to fix every now and then don’t land line talking also confuse? Oh well, it’s a story. Some incredible things do happen, don’t they? My point was Mr. W wanted to give all his love to his wife when he knew she had only seven days to live, though all his life maybe he had taken her for granted!

        Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 10:15 am
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      I’m glad to read a story from you again. And such a pleasant, quiet story.
      It’s so nice to watch the couple in your story. Everything feels good and right, what they do.
      One more question: why did you use the surnames? It brings a certain distance into the story. But you surely have a good reason for that.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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      I loved the interplay between the couple. It was sweet the way he treated her after thinking she was going to die.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 4:09 pm
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      A very loving story of two old people who love and care for each other – one is deaf and the other partially blind because of her cataract. It is pleasing to read how muddled up they get because of their age related condition. You constructed the story very well.
      At first I thought a nurse will never tell Mr Wiseman on the phone, that his wife has 7 days left to live, but then she never said that. He heard part of it and made up the other bit.
      I wonder whether he will revert back to his old ways once he found out she was fine.

      Reply
    • September 19, 2019 at 9:25 am
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      Nice, heartfelt story, Dita. Sometimes a crisis is needed to bring people back together. Thankfully, this crisis was only a misunderstanding. Still, though, so much good has come out of it. It’s nicely narrated in a sweet, gentle way.

      You give us a hint that Mr Wiseman is hard of hearing (at one point he adjusts his hearing aids, I think) – which may add to the suspension of belief that he could have misunderstood the telephone message, even if the line itself was clear. So, I’m fine with that.

      Whether hospitals give such info on the phone, that may be debatable, but in any case that’s not the subject of this story. And there may always be a reckless nurse who doesn’t abide by the hospital house rules…

      Well done and welcome back 🙂
      Ken

      Reply
  • September 17, 2019 at 8:25 am
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    DYING WISH

    “There must be a cure, doctor!” Gray pleaded. His eyes began to fill up. He started to feel weak,
    drained out of energy and blood. Goosebumps rose on his skin. He forced himself to slowly stretch his legs. He lifted his hand from the hospital bed covers to search for Sandy’s hand.

    Noticing his movement, Sandy grabbed his hand and wrapped her hands over his and squeezed it.

    “I’ll sell everything I own if that is the cost of a cure for me. I want to live a bit longer, more years than a week. I will give up all for a cure.”

    The doctor reached for his shoulder, held it. “We would if we could.”
    He turned to withdraw from Gray. “Bowel cancer is a merciless disease Gray. It has reached a stage where we are powerless to do anything. As professionals, you as a dentist and Sandy as a nurse, understand your disease has reached its terminal stage. I suggest you make the best of your week left in this World. Your life has reached its end.” The doctor nodded at both of them as he explained and offered his compassion.

    “Please, doctor! You must have a cure.” Gray’s eyes welled up. “I’ve worked so hard to get where I am today. Just when I am ready to retire in a couple of months, to enjoy life, travel and use my pensions, this happen. Now, I am losing everything – my health, my sanity, my wealth, my pensions, my home, my cars. God is robbing me of a life I deserve. I’m so angry at Him. It’s so unfair.”

    “Stay positive, Gray! So far you’ve had a good working life, a comfortable lifestyle, good health, and an excellent partner here. All of us leave this World after spending either a short time, or a bit longer, or a long, long time.” The doctor turned his gaze to Sandy. “Life is cruel.”

    “I will never grow old. All my plans are spoiled, my talents wasted.”

    Sandy lowered her gaze on Gray. “We are going home. I’ll take care of you.” Sandy decided.

    Gray turned his face on its side, He did not want to be seen crying. He pressed on the bubbles that rose from the pit of his stomach. His mouth twitched and his body shook.

    Back home, Gray sat on the sofa, shivering despite the fire spitting in the fireplace. He looked out of the window with his gaze fixed at the manicured garden.
    He had been so involved in building his own practice that he hardly had time to enjoy what he owned. He just noticed how beautiful his environment was.
    He started to reflect on his life. He met Sandy 31 years ago when he broke up with his ex-fiancee when he found out she was cheating on him with his best friend. They just graduated in dentistry and secured a job in their local High Street Practice.
    He met Sandy as a patient. On a rebound and to prove to his fiancee and best friend that they were dispensable, that he would not accept cheating, dishonesty from others, he asked Sandy for a date. Things moved on from there. Sandy was renting a room then. Gray offered to share his house rentfree in return that she contributed in the upkeep of the house. They drifted into a comfortable loving, close relationship and living. He never married her.

    Sandy broke into his thoughts when she walked in with a tray of his evening meal. She pulled the lap table to place the tray on it, puffed the pillows behind him and hoist him against them before she pulled the table in front of him. He squeezed his eyes shut on seeing the food. He had lost his appetite. Using his fork he played with the food.

    “I’m going to make a call to the registrars.” Gray said as he pushed the lap table away from him to pick his mobile phone on his side, “You’ll have to help me, as you always have, if I need your assistance.”

    “Sure,” Sandy answered and removed the lap table and the tray of leftover food away from him.

    “You’ve been such a wonderful companion/partner for me for all these 31 years. You’ve cooked, cleaned for me, attend to all my needs. I never told you how much you make me happy, how much you made this house a home to come to after a long day at work. You are such a gentle and undemanding person. You never asked or expected anything from me.”

    “I have been very happy to be just with you Gray. I don’t need anything else. You can’t imagine how shocked I am that our lives will change in such a breakneck speed manner. I can’t believe you won’t be here next week and I won’t see you in flesh and blood anymore.” Sandy searched his face and sniffed and took a long breath in to conceal the heaviness in her heart. She struggled to look at him.

    “I know. I never told you how much I appreciate you. I love you.”

    Sandy nodded and turned to move away, her hands laden with the tray.

    “I have a last demand from you, Sandy” He continued. “Please, sit down and listen to me. This is very important.”

    Sandy blinked, put the tray back on the table and sat down next to him. She blinked and looked straight into his eyes.

    “Will you marry me?” Gray asked. His mouth twitched.

    Sandy pleated her brows.

    “Will you marry me?” He repeated, a forced smile appearing on his dried lips. “You can’t refuse an almost dead man’s wish.” He waited for her answer.

    Sandy burst into tears. “I do.” She answered in a choked voice. She hugged him, They stayed locked together for a little while.

    “I am making a call to the registrar to conduct an emergency wedding. Arrange whatever you like. There is not much time for planning. The money is there. Use it but keep it simple. I want to leave everything, all my worldly goods to you. Our home, our cars, my investments, my pensions, everything. We never talked about this before . I can’t take anything with me. Before I go, I want to let you know how much I appreciate you as a human being. I have been very lucky, blessed. I love you so much.”

    “I do.” Sandy accepted his offer. “I’ve been so lucky and happy to be your partner all these years and soon to be your wife. I ask for no more. I love you so much. I can’t visualize a life without you.”

    “I know. I want you to live the same lifestyle you’re used to. Use the money. I should have done this a long time ago. Don’t do what I spare myself of. I will leave this earth with no regrets. I know you’ll dispose of them as best as you can when it’s your time to leave this earth. Mine has come to an end.”

    Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 8:39 am
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      Hi, Chitra. A story full of love. It seems that the couple are only now declaring (or perhaps reiterating?) their true love for each other … one thing the impending death is good for. It happens very quickly, but it’s good to see how Gray relinquishes his self-pity and shifts his attention to Sandy and what he’ll leave for her (though you get the feeling that she’d give it all up if she could just keep him). I’m not sure how you could do it, but there might be a place for a little more jeopardy – not regarding the fact that Gray is going to die, but in terms of the couple’s relationship. As it is, the story starts with the couple in love, and ends with them in love (albeit more openly now). Perhaps there might have been a little more tension … but the story works as it is anyway, as a positive ending to a life.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 10:48 am
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      So he finds a way to live on – in the mind of his loved one. Touching story, Chitra.

      Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 7:09 pm
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      Lovely story Chitra. I like the way they found each other and her saying “I’ll take care of you when we go home…all the little details you showed. I wished you showed more struggle of the dying man to propose her at such a wrong time…or his dilemma of giving her all his money but not time in marriage..and then she accepting it graciously, solving his conflict. Good story anyway, Chitra.

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 5:39 am
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        Thanks for reading and commenting on my story. Dita.

        I try to portray Gray as a very busy man who had no time even for himself which a lot of us are like now. His impending death made him prioterize things that he should have done earlier. He realized what was most important in life. The wealth he acquired could not buy his health.

        Reply
  • September 17, 2019 at 2:38 pm
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    Dog Days by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [923 words]

    You’d be surprised how many people leave their pets behind at the end of the world. I’d been making my way house to house gathering up the left behinds and bringing them back to my farm. The occasional grandparent, spouse, or kid I’d stumbled upon were welcome to come along as well. More often than not they chose to face the end at home.

    No one had seen the object until just before it plowed through the moon; something to do with its trajectory being blocked by the sun or Jupiter’s gravity pulling it off course. I was never into that space shit. Both rocks shattered into thousands of smaller pieces and they were falling toward the Earth’s atmosphere, so this was basically a world ending event. We only had about a week left and no one had time to make an ark ship, underground civilization, or send Bruce Willis to save the day. We were doomed.

    Naturally, this resulted in everyone running out to do all the things they’d always wanted to but societal norms or obligations kept them from. Arson, orgies, huge weeklong parties with a smorgasbord of drugs, driving cross country to find old flames or lost friends – this had become the way of things. The responsibility of a dog, cat, or hamster just didn’t register on most people’s fuck it list. I had done all those crazy things in my past and had no compunction to do them now. So I went out gathering the animals so they didn’t starve to death sad, confused, and alone.

    A few small rocks had already started falling in the pacific when I decided to have a last hurrah at the farm. Since the end of the world would be terrifying for us all, I decided to slaughter my remaining hogs and end the world with a giant pig roast for those who had stayed and all the pups running around the farm. The pigs had been roasting since 3am and there was some time to kill until they were done, so I headed out for one last rescue mission.

    The streets had been eerily quiet for a few days now and today the silence was oppressive. Each street I turned down weighed heavier and heavier on me. I was jerked from my funk by the sound of a gunshot and a sharp whine coming from a nearby yard. I pulled up near the side of the fence, grabbed my shotgun, and cautiously headed to the gate.

    “Hello?” I called out to announce myself. The dog started barking, but there was no sound of whoever had fired the shot. “I’m opening the gate.”

    Very slowly, I lifted the latch and eased into the yard. I looked around and saw no one outside. There was a whimper coming from the screened in porch. I could smell the iron tang of blood as I can closer and there was a slumped shadow sitting in one of the deck chairs. I opened the screen door and a pistol lay on the floor near the spreading pool of blood. I turned away and saw a dog cowering under a table.

    He was a charcoal grey pitbull mix who looked confused, but not hostile. I settled down on my haunches and held my fist out for him to sniff. He was very cautious at first, darting out briefly from under the table. So I sat patiently and he eventually let me pet him. I saw his collar said “George” and he thumped his tail when I called him that. One homemade peanut butter dog biscuit later and we were best friends for life. Of course, that was just for a few more hours, days tops.

    I searched through the house and took the dog food, bowls, and all the human food I could fit into a box I found. George stood there by the door with a toy in his mouth wagging his tail.

    “Well, come on then.” I elbowed the door open and he followed me toward the truck. I put the box in the back and when I opened the door, George jumped right in. I turned the key and decided it was time to enjoy what bit of life I had left. I took my last leisurely drive through town, rolling the windows down for George and me to get one last taste of fresh air.

    We pulled up to the farm and I got him settled in with the other dogs. After getting cleaned up, it was time to dig up the pigs and assemble the feast. All the people I’d collected had been hard at work whipping up cornbread, baked beans, spring rolls, and lots and lots of margaritas. The pigs got carved up and after the humans had filled their plates, the dogs got their fill too. Watching the dogs enjoy their meat and run around with each other it was hard not to smile.

    Everyone did their best to ignore our impending doom. A few people had brought instruments so we listened to music, danced, and told stories. As it got later, I grabbed a pitcher and a blanket and headed up the hill to look at the stars one last time. I thought about all I’d gotten to do in this life and then a wet snout blocked out my view of the night sky. George and a couple other dogs settled onto my blanket, happy and sated. Together we waited for the end, watching the sky start to fall.

    Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 9:00 am
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      A lovely story, Wendy, and a very nice angle on the theme. It’s told in a very matter-of-fact way which paradoxically gives it all the more impact. I felt the killing of the pigs was a bit cruel – they’re people too! – but the narrator’s concern for the other strays, both animal and human, is admirable. The last line is simply beautiful.

      btw – I entered a short-film screenwriting competition based on this idea. One of my scripts is below (also involving an animal!) – I entered a few, none of which got through, sadly. The short films that ARE produced are going to be made into a portmanteau film, to be released some time soon.

      https://www.impact50film.com/phase-2-scripts/p/the-purrfect-ending-by-phil-town/

      Reply
      • September 18, 2019 at 1:11 pm
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        I’ve found that people can be animal lovers and animal eaters at the same time. I read a lot of post apocalyptic fiction, so I wanted to find a different way to deal with it. But I have to admit that I love a good pig roast and I know my dog would too.

        That is a cute script with him dancing with Kitty.

        Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 11:17 am
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      It’s a very relaxed way to talk about the end of the world. It seems that people do not love their pets that much when it comes to the end. But there is someone who takes care of the former loved ones. And I like the party at the end of the world. (Although I’m with Phil concerning the pigs.)

      Reply
      • September 18, 2019 at 1:14 pm
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        I wanted to convey someone who was very down to earth about dealing with the end. Yes, yes, I know pigs are smart and cute and would probably make excellent companions at the end of the world. But have you ever tried fresh pork that was roasted all night after being infused with lemon, lime, and garlic?

        Reply
    • September 19, 2019 at 5:19 am
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      Enjoyed the read and the idea of a big party with people and animals before the World ends.Wendy. Nicely told.

      Reply
  • September 17, 2019 at 3:26 pm
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    One Sunday Evening in 2005

    “Ma, I just got this fantastic new car from my boss. He was selling it dirt cheap.”
    “Whaaaat? Is it that easy to buy and sell cars?”
    “We did a mutual exchange, Maa! He wanted my boring family car and I wanted his sporty Subaru. Electric blue, Ma. A total dream. Cool deal. Say you’re pleased.”

    “I’m happy if you’re happy, Adam. But, tell me, didya go to church this morning?”
    “No, Ma. I got busy cleaning my car. Make it shine, Lord. In my heart, Lord. I’ll sing, Ma!”

    “This is ridiculous!”
    “You can’t imagine how people stop to stare at my car as I drive by.”

    “Who cares, son? Today it’s cleaning your car! Every Sunday you got some new excuse.”

    “It’s not easy to go alone, Maaaaaa. You gotta understand. This is such a redneck area. They’ll think I’m some kinda hoodlum. Ain’t like NY or LA. They’re so not used to brown guys.”

    Adam knew if he mentioned terrorist or hoodlum, his mama turned silent.

    His mama breathed deep. “Alright do what’s best. You’re 24 now, my sweetheart. You should know. I raised you well.. So no fears, hon! But remember church is always the best place to go at least once a week. Better than a pub.”

    Tuesday, work went super. Adam was put in charge of his group for a month, besides representing the company for tennis. Wednesday he’d call Mom with good news. He had saved his weekly $5 for the disabled veteran on Corner Street.

    “Hey Mit, you playing this weekend?”
    O yay, let’s have a go. Three games of tennis, then Joe’s bbq at his home downtown.
    “Sure, Man. This place is coming alive finally.”

    Saturday night, Mit came to pick up Adam. Both loved their cars, but Adam’s was more powerful. They had some drinks.. The bbq, Kansas style, was yummy.

    “Now for some pob hopping,” Krish, accentuating his heavy South Indian.

    “Sorry, guys, tomorrow’s Sunday. Gotta go somewhere. Drop me home. Don’t let me stop your fun.”

    Mit took the wheel. “Alrighty Adam, won’t keep you. Drive you home. But for the rest of us, the night’s still young, right guys?” Mike was swaying.

    The car was now cruising at 120 miles. A little too fast. The culvert came too soon. Mit turned in, It was 35 mph..and he was at 75.

    Mit was seeing double now. Two trees in the middle of the road. He swerved. What’s that? A deer?

    Adam was dozing off behind. Too lazy to strap his seatbelt on. It was a long Saturday with tennis, back to the office for some extra work, and then this party night out.

    The corn and grass tasted bitter in his mouth.

    Sudden flashes of light made Adam cover his eyes.
    “Who’s this who’s come for me?”
    “Oh my God, Christ, it’s you??? Wait, you taking me? Whattt? Now?”

    “What about my mama? She told me to go to church tomorrow. It’s Sunday.”
    “Don’t worry, son.. Your mama is in good hands. I’ve got her back.”
    “You really mean it?” Adam asked, his eyes were sparkling.The sparkle was contagious. He caught it bad.
    “It’s church everyday where we go. The best kind forever. Your mama’ll be happy. Trust me.” Adam felt an unusual sense of completion. Like a tech job done well.

    “Besides a furry is being sent for them to cherish…better than all the money in the world.
    An angel dog will help them now and wipe away some of their tears.”

    ……………………..Mila told the girls the Genesis-to-Revelation story that night as they hugged each other tight. Nobody asked any questions. Adam’s gentle spirit had broken through the shackles of his mortal tent, with lightning speed to his final home.

    A cloud of hope enveloped them into a deep sleep.

    Another Sunday Evening in 2014

    Dinner was in the oven. Mila’s heart was heavy and food prep had lost its oomph. She hummed under her breath as a tear rolled down her cheek.. ‘Where do I begin to tell the sweet love story of a love that’ll never let go?’

    He was everyone’s ‘best buddy’. But with age, his body became stiff. A slip disc and arthritis reduced his quality of life. He found it difficult to use the stairs.

    The doc declared it was time to aid the easiest send off ever.
    “You gotta put an end to his suffering. It’s your own selfish reasons that you want to see him linger. Nothing can save him now. Too old to be operated; palliative doesn’t work here.”

    “How can I let him go? Mila wailed to Jorge that evening. “It hurts too much.”
    “That’s alright. He’s served his time.”
    “What a terrible thing to say, Jorge! Who’s he? A prisoner?”

    Jorge was bad at covering his emotions. He felt rotten but pretended he was macho.
    The next four days spent at the ICU was when euthanasia was recommended.
    “Don’t take him home this sorry state. What about his dignity?”

    Sad eyes stared at his mama. What would she do without him? Who would protect her now?
    He kinda sensed where he was headed to.
    Rainbow Bridge. There things were under control.
    He would quickly depute the next in line to this fabulous home..

    Come Saturday, Mila drove to the hospital, the last time she’d see him. The tears flowed as if a dam had burst within.The nurses comforted Mila as she broke down in the corridor.

    “Need one last hug?” Nurse Ellen asked.
    “No it’s fine. I am fine,” Mila sobbed as she looked at his handsome form, spread out on the white sheets.
    Jorge had escaped, going early to work that day. A man can’t cry; not the type to hold his wife’s hand, or watch her cry.

    Totally heart broken, Mila agreed to let him go. She watched the syringe go quietly into his hips. Then all was silent.

    “He is sleeping,”…the vet said. The furry tail slipped off the narrow bed. Our Havanese Fido breathed his last, leaving his paw print and his cuddly love in our hearts forever.

    It wasn’t easy for Mila to comfort her two girls away at University.

    “Ma, why do people live long and pets die young?” asked Tia, as they wept on Skype. She wasn’t talking of her brother. He was a star in every way.

    “Loving unconditionally doesn’t come easy to humans, honey. Cynical lot. True loving and giving aren’t ingrained in us.. But dogs trust, love and obey from the very beginning. Man’s got to live out his life till he learns.”

    That night, Mila’s Dear Diary read:

    “Fido never barked as the neighbor’s dogs. Never held grudges nor complained if his food got delayed. He hated loud arguments. Never a terrorist or hoodlum to the birds that visited the garden. He made us smile after a long day.Humans were welcomed with joyous yelps. He grinned at the mangiest cat in the neighborhood, for he held no class or color difference, though he himself was higher bred.
    Our gentleman dog, forever at peace.”

    ___Then arrived Dolce, Mr. Cuddles, Havanese, on Christmas Day_____

    (1198)

    Reply
  • September 17, 2019 at 11:26 pm
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    I hear the rain when I awake, a spring rain. The name Bartimus is on my lips. I whisper it to myself; that’s my name. I lie still, listening. I hear frogs just above me. I feel the damp earth around me, smell the clay, the minerals, the organic materials that make up the soil. I smell these things as I draw in a deep breathe, my first in twenty-seven years.

    It’s my seventeenth awakening. It means I’m four hundred and fifty-nine years old. That’s my age of 20, when I became as I am, plus the four hundred and thirty-nine years since. I remember everything down to the last detail of my cycles, but nothing before them, only the sound of the music, the sweet, sad music. I put the melancholy thoughts away; there’s no time. I’m back, and it’s time I set things into action. After all, I have only one week to live.

    I can’t explain what I am. I appear to be completely human, but I know I am far from it. I’m something akin to a vampire if you believe in such things. My similarities with this mythical creature are limited, however. I prefer not to lurk around at night, taking out the throats of women. Nothing so vulgar for me, and I can walk out in the sun and even get a tan if I so desire. I do however feed on blood, preferably human blood, and there’s one other thing; Vampires aren’t real, and I am.

    At a nearby stream, I drink for several minutes. After bathing in the water, I consider my surroundings and start on my way, following the stream as it winds its way out of the mountains. I walk naked through the woods, in the direction of the city.

    The next evening I sit in a birch tree just in the back of a culdesac and watch a young man arrive alone, a briefcase swinging casually in his hand: no wedding band, no toys in the drive. When the lights go out in the house for the evening, I break in through the back door and kill the man in his bed, feeding on his blood, stashing the corps in the freezer. I could have used him, injecting my DNA into his body after I had debilitated him. His body would have served as an incubator for the next me. But once I’ve transplanted my DNA, sadly I will perish in a matter of hours. That would be such a waste; I have five more days to live, to feed. I will use his house and wear his clothes, drive his car, use his credit cards; I will try to experience the more beautiful things that this week in time has to offer.

    Late on the fifth day of my cycle, after enjoying an evening of fine wine, food, and great conversation with locals. I take a stroll down through the old town section of the city; a place for artisans and one of a kind shops that offer fine antiques and jewelry along with tailored clothing and the best of baked goods and sidewalk cafes. I pause just outside of the Old Town Auditorium the beautiful sound of a violin filling my ears, the awareness of my remaining time bears down on me. I enter quickly through a side door and settle in a hard wooden chair in the farthest reaches of the crowd.

    From the stage, the music takes hold of me; my body absorbs the music, and like liquid sorrow, it seeps into my bones. It churns up longings for something I once had. There’s something else in this place; however, someone else; an attraction besides the music. My eyes go to the young violinist on stage. I place a hand to my jaw and gasp softly; He’s not much more than a boy, maybe eighteen at the most. An aversion to my sudden desire for the boy rises in my stomach. I should go. I should not linger. I rise to my feet, but I can not leave. I watch him swaying to and fro as he plays. His dark hair hangs loosely about his eyes. It’s the way he moves, the shape of his mouth, the curve of his jaw that is hauntingly familiar. I sink back into my chair.

    Time slips away. I find myself standing amongst the applauding crowd. The audience dwindles, but I linger in the shadows, watching him pack away his violin, sure I have found the perfect host for the next me.

    On the street, I stay out of sight until I see him leave by the front entrance. I approach him as he comes galloping down the stairs.

    “Are you the violinist?” I ask.

    He regards me. “Did you see the recital?”

    “Yes, I did see the show actually and wanted to introduce myself. My name is Finigan Hamilton.” I hand him a card. “And you are?”

    “Tavian,” he says with a weak smile.

    “I am a talent agent, you see.” I continue directly. “My interests are in classical musicians.”

    “What company are you with?” He asks, his voice hard and direct.

    I lower my voice as if wounded by his question. “It’s a small privately own operation, nothing big. Have you been to Sebastian?”

    Tavian nods.

    “My office is located there.”

    “I have an aunt that lives in Sebastian,” he says, without a blink of an eye. “On Third Street, right down from the St. Martian Library.”

    Oh, he is bright and glorious. “Don’t you mean Fifth Street down from the St Maritians Library?” I correct him politely.

    He gives me a hard look. “I suppose. I’m not familiar with Sabastian. I rarely visit my aunt.”

    Another lie. “I would like to discuss the possibility of taking you on as a client,” I say in a mellow voice moving closer. “You so some promise.”

    Tavian stammers, “You’ll have to excuse me. But you can see how this would seem surreal. This kind of thing doesn’t happen. How do I know you are who you say you are?”

    “I understand your misgivings completely, but I’m a businessman and seldom give possible clients a second chance. So don’t dilly dally away an opportunity when one is in reach.” I pause for effect. “They don’t come often.” A moment passes. “My car is in the back; we could go grab some food and talk.”

    He looks around nervously.

    “Well, will you go talk to me, or are you going home to your present situation? Don’t get me wrong. You may be perfectly happy with where you are now in life and if you are, then walk away. If not, then you need to make a move, take a chance.” I watch his face, see his throat move nervously. It’s then I turn and walk toward the back alley. I hear his footsteps on the pavement, following me. At that moment I almost stop and tell him to run, to run far away as I feel a fleeting moment of regret, not for him, but for the people of the world who will never know what he could have been.

    Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 9:14 am
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        Convincing vampire story, Dennis. You don’t know who you meet.
        Toxic people are like modern vampires, they suck your energies (my opinion)

        Reply
    • September 19, 2019 at 10:53 am
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      Wow. A beautifully written story with a compelling ending. I can’t say more as I have limited time. Your writing is fabulous Dennis.

      Reply
  • September 18, 2019 at 5:13 am
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    A 1200 word short story by Ken Frape.


    Seven Days To Oblivion

    Timeline: Year 4752
    Archeological discovery: A diary
    Site: Extinct Planet Earth, Repopulation exploration.
    Conditions: Toxicity levels do not sustain human life.
    Diarist: Ivan Gaskill, College Professor, human, age 47 in 2019.

    First entry
    Monday 06.14 GMT
    I need to write this down.
    It’s started. The end of Earth.
    Ironic really. We have seven days until oblivion. God took six days plus a day off to create the world. It has a certain symmetry, doesn’t it?
    An asteroid twice the size of a football pitch is going to hit Earth at 30,000 miles per hour in seven days’ time. It will blast a crater twenty miles deep and a hundred miles wide. The shock wave will travel at ten times the speed of a jet aeroplane. It will carry everything in its path, a tsunami hundreds of feet high and rising. It will radiate outwards from the epicentre and minutes later, most life on the Earth will have ceased. Gases will be released by the impact and they will cover Earth with an impenetrable blanket, a shroud, blocking the Sun for decades. Any remaining life will become extinct. Even those who thought they could survive in their underground bunkers will eventually die but slowly.
    As a scientist, I find this fascinating. As a human and a father, I find it terrifying.
    Tuesday
    Government agencies worldwide are now in possession of my data. I had little choice about being here at the centre of the Government ‘s Asteroid Response Team. I was almost arrested when I initially protested. I think they were embarrassed that I spotted the asteroid in my college lab and they missed it. They didn’t believe me at first. Now they do and the asteroid’s ETA is 10.41 GMT on Monday.
    I wonder if I will ever see my wife and family again? They never gave me a chance to say goodbye.
    Today it seems that world leaders grappled with the enormity of the situation, torn between the need to avoid panic and their duty to inform. Arguments raged on in Government offices around the world. A general agreement was made by Western Alliance leaders not to go public yet but it will only take one chink in the armour of silence.
    Wednesday
    The first crack in that wall of silence came from local radio station WZT Bahamas. Social media picked it up and within hours #Oblivion was created and went viral. There has been a huge increase in drug taking and alcohol since then and #Don’t Die Sober now has over one hundred million followers. Beach parties are happening right across the globe as people indulge themselves while they can.
    There are lots of things I would like to have done in my final hours but none of that has been possible. We are in a lockdown situation.
    Thursday
    At the expected epicentre of the asteroid strike, London, England, queues of traffic gridlocked the main highways as the population sought to escape. Shops were looted, empty houses ransacked, medical supplies raided as law and order broke down. The people stuck in traffic, listening to the radio bulletins, gradually began to realize that this is a whole of Earth event. There is nowhere to run so many returned to their homes. As more and more people returned, it seems like some kind of order has been restored but it’s a febrile, eerie peace. The terrified people must be beginning to think about the end of the world, their mortality.
    The other scientists trapped here in the control room with me are getting restless. They want to be with their families too.
    Friday
    The events that took place in London were also enacted across the globe. Mobs form in an instant to attack Government buildings, setting fire to offices, burning official documents, raiding any and every source of cash. Public order descended into chaos as those with the means to defend themselves did just that. The sounds of gunfire are ringing out across every city in every country and the expected sirens that accompany the arrival of the emergency services have failed to materialise. They have families too.
    TV and radio stations are still broadcasting but the content is based now upon only one subject. The daily diet is hourly Government bulletins charting the narrowing gap between Earth and the hurtling asteroid.
    Religious rallies are taking place around the world.
    Millions of people are camping out and watching the skies, looking for the first visible signs of the asteroid.
    Saturday
    World leaders broadcast messages to their people today. Countries with very strong religious beliefs urged their people to pray. They would all meet again in Heaven or Paradise and their faith would protect them, they said. Religious leaders appeared on every TV screen. For many people across the world, this was a source of comfort. For others, like me I guess, it was a simple reminder of the futility of religious faith. I am a scientist. I need evidence not faith but right now, I wish I had faith. Believers or non-believers alike, we will all die on Monday.
    Other world leaders urged their people to try and stay calm. In most cases, they really had nothing to say that could help. How could they? Across the globe families that could do so, gathered together. Distant relatives tried desperately to get home but increasingly the world’s transport infrastructure disintegrated. I wish that is where I was now, at home. I need to tell my family I love them. If this really is the end and it looks as if it really is, then we should be together.
    Sunday
    It seemed as if a mass acceptance had taken place across the world today. There are no last minute heroics taking place to blast the meteor out of its orbit. Crowds of people have gathered peacefully in town squares. They sang songs and burned candles and incense. They hugged and kissed friends and family and shared food and drink. Church services were held across the world and then people went quietly to their homes to spend their remaining hours together. I wish I could do the same.
    World Peace has broken out but it’s too late.
    This will be my last entry as we approach midnight. The lights have just gone out and our screens are blank. It’s very cold in here too. I am going to remind myself that I am a scientist and lock this diary into a metal box. Who knows, someone may find it in the future.
    I feel quite calm now. Accepting. I love you Jane and Abby and Simon. x
    Goodbye Mother Earth.
    END
    At 10.41GMT the following day the computer monitors on board Space Probe Noah’s Ark witnessed and stored the images of the destruction of Earth as it sped further into deep space. Thirty years into their exploratory mission to find a new planet, the cargo of two thousand carefully selected and cryogenically stored human passengers, slumbered on, blissfully unaware that they were no longer just a part of the Human Race.
    Now, they were The Human Race.

    Ken Frape September 2019

    Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 1:24 pm
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      I thought about doing a diary type story too, but yours is better than what I would have come up with. Nice change of format.

      Reply
    • September 19, 2019 at 9:05 am
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      Interesting read being blown to extinction by an asteroid, Ken. LMen live in hope. Perhaps it will just pass by the earth and miss it or shatter it into pieces and we will start again as mini earth

      Reply
    • September 19, 2019 at 10:59 am
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      Brilliantly conceived, excellently delivered. A thoroughly gripping and horrific tale, Ken. Loved it.

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 11:17 am
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        Hi Ken C,

        Things seem to have conspired against finding time to be as active on this site lately as I would like. In the end I have read all of this batch and commented upon just a few. i was hoping to work my way through them but I have realised that I need to keep on top of this day day day rather than just a big effort at the end.

        i have voted now and I hope my judgement is borne out by the opinions of others. In this case you will be the winner.
        Everything about Cardinal Point is just so well written as to engage you with the action and the pain that must have been felt.
        Hope to get back into our regular exchanges as soon as possible.

        The panther and the spider are masterstrokes of storytelling. Great stuff, my friend!

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • September 18, 2019 at 8:21 am
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    Question to all of you: Is anyone taking part in NANOWRIMO? If so, I want to be your writing buddy. My name there is “berlinermax”, surprise, surprise. If you don’t know Nanowrrimo, look here: nanowrimo.org

    Reply
    • September 18, 2019 at 4:35 pm
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      I’m doing NANOWRIMO!! Wouldn’t miss it. I’ve done it for years. I had to lay out the last year or so because of school but now that I’ve graduated and I’m done with “scholarly writing”, I am back to working on my asylum novel and other works. Many in my writer’s group, the Word Weavers also participate. I love NANOWRIMO!

      Reply
        • September 19, 2019 at 9:21 am
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          Mine is ARiggs. (Creative, right?) I’ve been doing NANOWRIMO since 2007. I’ve already got story ideas brewing for this year. We’ll have to cheer each other on Jurgen!

          Reply
          • September 19, 2019 at 10:54 am
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            Yeah! I just added an English version to my bio. 🙂

    • September 18, 2019 at 7:55 pm
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      I looked into it a few years ago and I didn’t fancy being under the pressure of producing the £50000 words in the month. I do things on my own time.
      It is not for me.
      Good luck with it.

      Reply
      • September 19, 2019 at 9:22 am
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        The challenge is great and it keeps you focused on writing, writing, writing. I’m looking forward to refocusing my spare time on writing more.

        Reply
  • September 18, 2019 at 10:22 am
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    This piece is a sequel to my story A STRANGER IN NEED, which appeared for last fortnight’s prompt “Sometimes, Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid”. If you read and enjoyed that story, you might wish to read this too. But you can’t vote for it, because I already presented another story AN ORANGE CAT IN ROME for the “One Week To Live” contest.


    A STRANGER IN NEED (IS A STRANGER INDEED) – Sequel
    by Ken Miles
    733 words (excluding intro, titles and this line)

    I saw Judith-whatever-Juliette leaving the carpark! I had to hide behind a large pillar, so she won’t see me. It smelled of pee – that’s the sort of thing I have to go through, because of her! My luck! I mean, why was she even in the carpark? She doesn’t even drive!

    Shit! Is that a parking ticket on my windshield! I’m sure I paid this morning! I mean, I remember putting the chit on the dashboard. It must have got blown away when I closed the door. Damn! Why am I always in such a rush! This life sucks… $50 dollars down the drain, it must be, let me see…

    No, phew, it’s not a ticket…

    What the fuck is this?

    “Dear Tracey,

    I’m Julienne from the cookery course. We met here about three months ago, do you remember? I looked for you again many times, but for some reason we never crossed paths again. I just want to tell you how good you were to me that day when you lent me your shoulder to cry on. I hadn’t cried on anyone’s since my mum died when I was eight. Not that I had no reason to cry, but I had no-one to cry with.

    Perhaps it’s thanks to my cancer that I even stopped to talk to you that day. We would have continued to exchange greetings from time to time, never to really stop and talk. Your words to me were precious – you said we’d all have to go down that road, in any case, one day. Very meaningful words to me.

    I’ve actually felt lucky ever since you uttered those very words to me. I realized how blessed I am to know when I’m leaving this world. It’s better than being taken by surprise when I least expect it or to live long till I rot of old age. I’m just leaving a bit earlier than I used to think. But I’m fine, I’m ready to go now. I’ve accepted it. As you said, it’s not a matter of if, but of when and how. I’m calm about it now, nearly looking forward, impatient to know what’s going to happen!

    Yesterday the oncologist told me I’ve just have one week left at most. I’m now on palliative, no need to continue treating myself. I just pop pills like they were Smarties to kill the pain and stay on my feet. I don’t care about the long-term side effects anymore. Why should I?

    I’ve decided to use my life-savings to do what I always wanted to do: go full circle around the world! I’m not sure if I’ll have enough time, but I’m going to try!

    I had an lonely life, but it’s good now that I don’t have anyone to leave crying behind me. Or to stop me on my tracks. It was my loneliness that actually made me come to the cookery course – not so much for the cooking itself, but to try find new friends. It was nice to talk to you there – we laughed so much over our pitiful muffins! You said mine looked like your ex’s willy on a bad day! I laughed till I cried!

    It all reminded me of those wonderful days when I was a kid. My mates and I used to watch Beverley Hills, then talk about it for hours. Laugh just about everything. Not like nowadays, everyone minding their own precious business.

    I felt us two could have become good friends. But then you mysteriously disappeared from the course. Pity you left – everyone kept asking about you. Even the teacher, you know. I’m not sure what got to him without you there, he sort of lost his sense of humor. It wasn’t the same anymore with you gone.

    I was so glad to see you again and open my heart to you that day when we last bumped into each other. Then you disappeared again! You disappear often? LOL LOL

    I would have liked to meet you again to give you the good news in person. But, alas, you’re nowhere to be seen! So I’m leaving you this note here on your windshield. I’m flying to Japan tonight, my long trip begins. Wheee! I wonder in which nation I’m going to die! I wish you could come with me!

    Thank you Tracey! And have a nice life.

    Love,
    Julienne

    Reply
    • September 19, 2019 at 4:44 am
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      And for those of you who can’t have enough of it(!):

      “… I wish you could come with me! We’d laugh so much! All around the world…

      Thank you Tracey! And have a nice life.

      Love,
      Julienne”

      So, yes, of course, ‘Julienne’ – that’s what she’s called! It was nice of her leaving me this note. I mean, she took the time and all. But did she have to give me such a goddamn fright? I nearly fainted! I thought it was a parking ticket, some bloody $50…

      Tracey got in her car and slipped Julienne’s heartfelt letter inside the glove compartment, where at least five years’ worth of old receipts, shopping lists and parking chits lived cosily together waiting for Judgement Day. Then she got on with the rest of her day. As normal.

      Reply
  • September 18, 2019 at 12:31 pm
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    Gah! just too late.
    Something came up I had to deal with …

    Reply
  • September 18, 2019 at 1:39 pm
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    I’m so sorry Andy, just a tad too late. Hope you can make it next time 🙂

    Reply
  • September 19, 2019 at 5:45 am
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    All the stories are A+
    The writers here, are all gifted and competitive.

    I had to choose, therefore voted for the ones that came close to me, the subjects that interest me and to how I write. What I am trying to say is that we’re all winners

    Reply
  • September 19, 2019 at 9:26 am
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    This prompt was really brought to light this week at work. A co-worker passed away Tuesday night. It was reported on Facebook that she lost a 5 week battle with cancer. Most of us didn’t even know she was sick! It was so sudden! 5 weeks. What a loss.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2019 at 11:00 am
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    Still waiting for votes from Yvette, Ken C., and Anindita.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2019 at 11:16 am
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    I’ve been out of town again, just finished reading the rest of the stories. Don’t have time to comment or congratulate at this time, maybe later, or tomorrow, when nobody cares anymore.

    Wendy, Your title: ‘Leftovers.’

    I will go and post a vote now, but– I wish I had more time to consider. I have to get a tire fixed, Finish the roof on the outhouse, and be ready for the grand opening (of the outhouse, of course) by 3 pm. No internet except at this diner, bless them for letting me sit on their porch and borrow their wi-fi.

    Okay, times a wasting.

    I’ll vote shortly.

    Great stories all around.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2019 at 12:46 pm
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    “One Week to Live” – September 19, 2019

    THE WINNER IS!!
    First Place: Cardinal Point by Ken Cartisano

    2nd Place: How Catfish by Phil Town
    3rd Place: An Orange Cat in Rome by Ken Miles
    4th Place: One Way Ticket by Addriene Riggs
    5th Place: The Offer by berlinermax
    6th Place: Seven Days To Oblivion by Ken Frape
    7th Place: Dog Days by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    8th Place: You Just Never Know by writing885018844 (Roy York)
    9th Place: Diamonds To Die For by Writer2019
    10th Place: Untitled by Dennis Wagers
    11th Place: One Sunday Evening in 2005 by Marien Oommen
    12th Place: Dying Wish by Chitra Adjoodah
    13th Place: One Week From Home… by Ilana L
    14th Place: One Week to Live (REVISED VERSION) by Neha Neil
    Yvette Naden and Anindita Basu did not vote

    Favorite Character: “Narrator” from Cardinal Point by Ken Cartisano
    Character Dialogue: Catfish by Phil Town

    Congratulations Ken C.!!!!
    And thank you all for participating.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2019 at 1:09 pm
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    Congratulations winners! Well deserved. Some very good stories this week. I will confess I was disappointed with 13 th place but it was a tough race and I’ll have to up my game and bite down on the birthing rag and do it all
    Over again. No pain no gain.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2019 at 2:00 pm
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    Congrats Winners!
    Way to go Ken C.!! Your story was tops with me.

    It was so hard to vote. Everyone did a great job!!

    Reply
  • September 19, 2019 at 5:11 pm
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    Congratulations, Ken! Brilliant story. Really chuffed about my second place!

    Reply
    • September 20, 2019 at 8:29 am
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      And me about my third 🙂 After I read your story, I knew that wherever I placed, I’d be somewhere after you. Well done, Phil!

      Reply
  • September 20, 2019 at 2:58 am
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    Congratulations Ken C. And best wishes to all of you writers. It’s a lot of fun being part of this.

    Reply
  • September 20, 2019 at 8:26 am
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    Congrats again Ken! You’re making it a habit 🙂
    Where are you btw? Celebrating? I’m a bit worried. I mean, that panther, you know… It didnt’ really…?

    Reply
  • September 20, 2019 at 4:13 pm
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    I can’t believe it. I’m shocked. (Are you sure the vote wasn’t tampered with, Alice? Have you seen any Russians lurking about? Australians? Marmosets? Any thing fishy? Mackerels? Salmon? Kingfish?) Sorry Phil, I feel like I robbed you. Your story was the best. It rocked and made me laugh out loud at the end. But really, I felt like there were four first place stories, three second place stories, four third place stories five fourth place stories, and four fifth place stories. (And mine was one of the second place stories.)

    Well, all I can say is that this clearly proves the validity of my philosophical point of reference and continue to maintain, in the face of all adversity, objections and obstacles. The one belief that carries me through good and bad, thick and thin, red and yellow. The one and only thing I know to be absolutely true in all situations. Which is….

    You never know.

    Reply
    • September 21, 2019 at 8:28 pm
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      Ken, nope – yours was the best, and obviously I wasn’t the only one who thought that.

      Reply

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